Research School for Economic and Social History

ESTER Research Design Course 2021

The N.W. Posthumus Institute participates in the European graduate School for Training in Economic and social historical Research (ESTER), a European platform for postgraduate teaching, involving over 60 universities throughout Europe and offering high-level research training for PhD candidates in an international context. Part of the ESTER programme is its annual Research Design Course (RDC) for economic and social historians. For 2021, this RDC will take place in Lisbon, Portugal.

Key info

Dates and location 18–20 October 2021, Lisbon (Portugal); when COVID-19 measures would make it impossible to travel to Lisbon we will move the RDC online
Hosting institution ISEG-Lisbon School of Economics & Management
Organisers Professor Nuno Valério, Dr Leonor Freire Costa, Dr Susana Münch Miranda (all ISEG-Lisbon School of Economics & Management), and Dr Rogier van Kooten (N.W. Posthumus Institute)
Sponsors ISEG-Lisbon School of Economics & Management, and its research centres the CSG and GHES, both sponsored by the Portuguese National Funding Agency for Science, Research and Technology (FCT)


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 guidance of a team of leading senior researchers whose task it is to provide comments and feedback.

Therefore, you will be asked to write a paper of about 25 pages in which you discuss the design of your research. In this paper, you will also prepare a detailed work plan for the dissertation. Prior to the workshop, the N.W. Posthumus Institute will circulate all papers, so the participants can prepare them in advance. During the RDC, you will give a brief presentation of your own paper and will receive feedback from junior and senior scholars in the field. You will also act as reporter, chair, and peer commentator for papers of other PhD participants.


The RDC course is aimed at offering PhD candidates better awareness of research choices that need to can be made by assisting them to:

  • sharpen and refine their research questions;
  • strengthen the focus of their research;increase the consistency of their overall dissertation plan;
  • make explicit the various theoretical and methodological choices that have to be made in the course of the project;
  • improve the composition of the dissertation;
  • learn how to provide feedback to peers.

The overall goal 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.On the last day of the RDC, each participant will be awarded with a certificate.


Candidates participating in the RDC should meet the following minimum requirements:

  • be a PhD candidate in economic and social history (regardless of their research subject)
  • (at the very least) be finishing the first year of their dissertation project, methodology and research design should not be fully crystallised
  • working on their research for at least six months, when they start writing their paper
  • able to have mastered English at a sufficient level

How to apply

Please note that only up to a maximum of 36 participants can be accepted to the Research Design Course.
PhD candidates can apply via our online registration form, which should also include an abstract between 400-800 words 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 guidelines that will be provided. Final admission depends upon the following criteria:

  1. the paper is received by the deadline, being 27 June 2021
  2. the paper is of sufficient academic quality
  3. the level of the English used in the paper is sufficient

Time path

18 April 2021 Call for applications
27 June 2021 Deadline application
July 2021 Decision on application, selection of participants
27 September 2021 Deadline paper submission
28 September 2021 Papers available online for participants
18-20 October 2021 RDC

Practical issues


  • There are no registration costs.
  • Reimbursement of a maximum amount of 200 euro (per participant) for accommodation costs will be organised via the organisers

Accommodation, catering, and travels

  • Accommodation should be arranged by yourself; part of the costs (zee above) will be reimbursed by the organisers
  • We recommend candidates to book an accommodation together, so contact each other in advance; the organisation will provide a list of suggestions concerning accommodations in Lisbon.
  • 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.
  • The participants are also required to organise their own travel arrangements from and to Lisbon.


Candidates who do not have travel budget, or for whom financing would be an obstacle to participate, may be eligible for a travel subsidy. This is especially intended to encourage participation of candidates from Eastern Europe. Please indicate your request for subsidy in your application.


For inquiries concerning this course, please contact the Education Programme Director Dr Rogier van Kooten.