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How you'll learn – University of Reading

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How you'll learn

Develop your communication, presentation, teamwork and problem-solving skills through our varied teaching methods, which include lectures, practicals, seminars and fieldwork.

Archaeology is a discipline that seamlessly crosses the humanities, social sciences and the natural sciences. Your studies will be complemented by small-group teaching, giving you the opportunity for intensive debate and discussion, as well as hands-on practical and laboratory sessions where you'll work with a diverse range of archaeological materials.

Critical thinking

You will be encouraged to debate ideas and think critically as you examine and expand shared knowledge. You'll develop the language and skills to challenge concepts and theories, with the flexibility to study your interests in depth.

Our research expertise feeds directly into the student experience, which means you'll engage with cutting-edge concepts of global interest. You'll be part of a supportive and collaborative international community of students, staff and alumni, and we'll assist you throughout your studies to tackle any challenges you may encounter as you shape your developing interests.

You will undertake an original research project (your dissertation) in your final year. The dissertation allows you to investigate an archaeological problem or issue of particular interest to you, and is an excellent opportunity to develop various independent research skills, including original data gathering (such as the recording of a collection of archaeological artefacts) and analysis.  For example, one of our students developed her own methodology for extracting hormones from bone as part of her dissertation. 


“The final-year modules I teach have always been based around the book I am writing at the time. Teaching and research are totally intermixed. I love seeing students play with ideas in class, and I also take the opportunity to test out my own ideas on them. I find this helps my writing and thinking; if I can articulate it clearly for them to understand then I am ready to write it. They get to debate ideas before publication; I get to try them out.”

Dr John Creighton - Associate Professor


Fieldwork is fundamental to archaeology; through it you gain information about the past and develop the practical skills that bring your studies to life. The Black Death cemetery at East Smithfield

Fieldwork includes:

  • excavation
  • surveying
  • GIS (geographic information systems) mapping
  • planning
  • finds processing.

Develop these skills at the end of your first year at the Department's dedicated field school. Previously, field schools have taken place at the Roman town of Silchester, and the medieval castle site of Dunyvaig on Islay in the Inner Hebrides. The Department has also explored the ancient prehistoric landscape of the Vale of Pewsey.

You'll be encouraged to work on other Departmental field projects, both in the UK and abroad, particularly during your second summer vacation. These projects cover a wide range of periods and places.

“Students were extensively involved in my fieldwork in Eastern Europe, funded by the EU in 2010-2014. This included UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme) placements. Undergraduates and postgraduates joined our international team to excavate castles associated with the Baltic Crusades, but also contributed at all levels of the research programme, from geophysics and landscape surveys to lab work and data analysis. Several completed dissertations on aspects of the project and have gone on to do PhDs. With a new project starting in Spain, two students have already completed dissertations that will directly contribute to our research, and others have benefited from placements aimed at enhancing their learning experience abroad.”

Dr Aleks Pluskowski – Associate Professor

Hands-on material-based learning

Handling and learning about material remains underpins all archaeological enquiries, so you will get hands-on experience examining remains from our excellent teaching collections. These include:

  • artefacts from various archaeological periods
  • sediments and biological materials (for example, plant pollen)
  • Roman and medieval pottery and glassware
  • Iron Age, Roman and medieval coinage and metalwork
  • replica lithic (stone) artefacts from early and later prehistory
  • human skeletons with a wide range of traumas and diseases
  • a large range of animal species.

You will also have the opportunity to work in our five dedicated suites of laboratories in Archaeology, as well as the University's central Chemical Analysis Facility.

Museum studies

With three on-campus museums, you'll be taught by professionals within an accredited museum service, and you'll have the opportunity to experience tasks such as collections-based research, assisting with digital projects, contributing to major public events, helping install temporary displays, communicating via social media, and assisting with formal school sessions.


​Come to an Open Day

Get a real feel for university life, meet Archaeology staff and students, join in some hands-on sessions, and explore our state-of-the-art facilities.

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