Call for Applications: ESTER Research Design Course 2020


Deadline: 1 may 2020

Venue: 19 – 21 October 2020 in Lisbon (Portugal)


The ESTER network, established in 1991, involves more than 60 universities throughout Europe and offers high-level research training for PhD candidates in an international context. The upcoming Research Design Course will take place at ISEG (Lisbon School of Economics and Management) and will be partially sponsored by ISEG, and its two research centres the CSG and GHES. Both are supported by the Portuguese National Funding Agency for Science, Research and Technology (FCT). This year’s edition will be organised by Nuno Valério, Leonor Freire Costa and Susana Münch Miranda (ISEG-University of Lisbon), Tim Riswick and Milou van den Berg (Radboud University).

The Research Design Course (RDC) is a format promoted by ESTER since the late 1990s. The RDC assists candidates in setting up a high quality and well-designed plan for their dissertation, under the supervision of leading senior researchers who provide them with constructive feedback. Thus, the RDC is not a “course” in which an instructor will give a lecture or that you will discuss historical theories in a seminar setting. Instead, it is focussed on the presentation of individual projects and the ensuing discussions on how to improve them.

Therefore, you will be asked to write a paper in which you discuss the design of your research. The aim of this methodological reflection is to investigate the scientific procedures that historians use to reach scientific explanations and to combine all analytical elements into a synthetic and coherent historical account. In this paper, you will also prepare a detailed work plan for the dissertation. The length of the paper should be around 25 pages, and needs to provide the structure of the remaining research, and therefore the dissertation itself. Subsequently, you will give a brief presentation during the conference, act as reporter, chair and peer commentator for other papers, and will receive feedback from junior and senior scholars in the field.

The goal of the RDC course is to offer PhD candidates assistance in:

  • Sharpening and refining their research questions;
  • Strengthening the focus of their research;
  • Increasing the consistency of their overall dissertation plan;
  • Making explicit the various theoretical and methodological choices that have to be made in the course of the project;
  • Improving the composition of the dissertation.

The RDC course thereby aims at a better awareness of research choices that can be made.

Description & Organisation of the RDC
The Research Design Course is a three-day workshop, in which the PhD candidates, divided in three to four groups, will discuss their work and that of others. Each participant will write a paper of 25 pages, according to the provided guidelines, in which they explicate their research theme and methodology. A group session will take about 70 minutes, in which all papers are presented and cross-examined by fellow PhD candidates and appointed senior commentators. This will be concluded with a general discussion. Prior to the workshop, the NWP will circulate all 36 papers, so the participants can prepare them in advance. On the last day of the RDC, each participant will be awarded with a certificate.

The RDC programme is intended for PhD candidates in economic and social history, regardless of their research subject. However, there are a couple of requirements that should be met. At the time of the Research Design Course:

  • Candidates should (at the very least) be finishing the first year of their dissertation project. The methodology and research design should not be fully crystallised. Participants should have been working on their research for at least six months, when they start writing their paper.
  • The main language of this event is English. Therefore, all participant should be able to have mastered it at a sufficient level.

Applications & Admission
PhD candidates can apply via our online registration form, which should also include an 800-word abstract of their dissertation project. Based on this short summary, the organisation will make a first selection. Once the candidates have been accepted, they will be asked to write their research paper conform the provided guidelines. The final admission depends upon the following criteria:

  • The candidates must meet the deadline for submission of his/her paper;
  • The quality of the paper: the papers must be of sufficient academic quality, and the level of the English used in the paper must be sufficient.

Please note that only 36 participants can be accepted to the Research Design Course.

Dates & Location
The 2020 RDC will take place at ISEG, Lisbon School of Economics and Management in Lisbon. The course will start with an informal welcome session on Sunday 18 October around 6 pm. The course will end on Wednesday 21 October around 4 pm. Candidates wishing to participate are requested to send in their application no later than 1 May 2020using the online form.

Costs & Accommodation
There are no registration costs and accommodation will be partly covered by the organisation. A maximum amount of 200 euro (per participant) has been made available to support the participants in acquiring a hotel room etc., which should be arranged through their own-initiative. We advise the candidates to book an accommodation together. The organisation will provide a list of suggestions concerning accommodations in Lisbon. The participants (or their home institutions) are also required to organise their own travel arrangements from and to Lisbon. Although, most of the catering will be pre-arranged, this will not be the case on Tuesday evening. Therefore, the candidates should take into account that they will have to make their own dinner arrangements.

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