Call for Applications ESTER Research Design Course How to strengthen your dissertation project?

The European graduate School for Training in Economic and Social Historical Research (ESTER) is a European platform for postgraduate teaching. ESTER announces its annual Research Design Course (RDC) for economic and social historians on 28 – 30 October in Lyon (France) The ESTER network, established in 1991, involves more than 60 universities throughout Europe and offers high-level research training for PhD students in an international context. At present the network is organised by the N.W. Posthumus Institute, which is a graduate school for economic and social history in the Netherlands and Flanders. The Research Design Course of 2019 will take place at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon and is sponsored by the LARHRA, Triangle and East Asian Studies Research Centres. This year’s edition will be organised by Claude Chevaleyre (Lyon Institute of East Asian Studies) and Bram Hoonhout (Radboud University). The Research Design Course (RDC) is a format promoted by ESTER since the late 1990s. The RDC assists students in setting up a high quality and well-designed plan for their dissertation under the guidance of a team of leading senior researchers whose task it is to provide comments and feedback.

The RDC is thus not a “course” in sense that an instructor will give a lecture or that you
will discuss historical theories in a seminar setting. Instead, it is centred on presentations
of the individual projects and the ensuing discussions on how to improve them.
You will therefore be asked to write a paper in which you discuss your Research Design.
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 paper has a length of around 25 pages and should
provide the structure in which the remaining research for the dissertation will take place.
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.

In this way, the RDC course offers PhD students help in sharpening and refining their
research questions, in strengthening the focus of their research, in increasing the
consistency of their overall dissertation plan, in making explicit the various theoretical
and methodological choices that have to be made in the course of the project, and in
improving the composition of the dissertation. The RDC course thereby aims at a better
awareness of research choices that need to be made.

Description and organisation of the RDC
The RDC consists of a 3-day workshop. Prior to the workshop, PhD students will prepare
a paper (of around 25 pages) according to a set of guidelines. During the workshop, each
paper will be examined in separate 70-minute sessions. Each session will begin with
comments prepared by one of the participating PhD students, followed by comments by
one of the senior commentators, after which a general discussion among all participants
will take place.

All papers must be circulated in advance; students need to read and prepare all papers to
be discussed in their group. This year a maximum number of 40 students can be admitted;
work will take place in three or four groups of students. A certificate will be awarded to
participants who have successfully completed the course.

Applications and admission PhD students should apply online and submit an 800-word abstract of the content of their dissertation project. A first selection will take place on the basis of the abstract. After this stage, PhD students who are accepted will be asked to follow a set of guidelines in order to write their research paper. The final admission to the course depends upon the following points: • the students 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. Dates and location The 2019 RDC will take place at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon. The course will start with an informal welcome session on Sunday 27 October around 6 pm. The course will end on Wednesday 29 October around 4 pm. Students wishing to participate are requested to send in their application no later than 10 June 2019, using the online form. The selection of students will be completed by 21 June. Deadline for submission of papers by accepted students is 15 September 2019. Following that date, the papers will be made available to all participants.

Time path

18 April Call for Applications

10 June Deadline application

21 June Selection completed, applicants informed

15 September Deadline paper submission

6 October Papers online for reading

28-30 October RDC Lyon

There are no registration costs and accommodation (three nights; from Sunday to
Wednesday) will be covered by the organisers. Because of budgetary constraints, this
accommodation will consist of shared (twin) rooms. Most catering will be covered by the
organisation too, yet on Tuesday you will have to make your own dinner arrangements.
Travel arrangements to, from and within Lyon will also have to be organised and covered
by the selected participants (or their home institution) themselves.

Students who do not have travel budget or for whom financing would be an obstacle to
participation may be eligible for a travel subsidy. This is especially intended to encourage
participation of students from Eastern Europe. Please indicate this wish in your

For inquiries concerning this course, please contact the education programme director of
ESTER: Bram Hoonhout (