Here in Leeds, it’s that time of year when students are either getting a lot of work back, or looking forward to work that’s due soon (mentioning no names, the DISSERTATION). In the last few days and weeks, I’ve spoken to a lot of students about the mechanics of writing, which has led me to put together this list of resources which I have used in the past, or found helpful. I hope to be able to add to it over time too.
For history students, the dissertation or final year project should be the crowning glory of their undergraduate studies. However, for many, it becomes more of a crushing weight they simultaneously can’t ignore but can’t seem to progress with. This is the time when it feels like the wheels are coming off the whole thing. This post will focus on some practical steps you can take to make sure those wheels stay on and you’re able to steer it all safely home.
Well the summer vacation is nearly upon us and for those of you just finishing your second year thoughts will be turning to dissertations and the work that you have to do over the coming months. Beyond actually deciding what you’re going to spend the next academic year working on and the idea of having to write ten thousand words on one single topic, probably the most daunting prospect is having to face doing a significant amount of primary research. Most of you will have done a far amount of research already – every time you write an essay or prepare a presentation there will be some degree of research involved – but it has probably been guided by your tutor to some extent and based either on online resources or what is held in your own institution’s library. Depending on what you’ve chosen to work on for your dissertation, chances are you’re now going to have to go further afield in the coming months to other libraries and archives in order to track down the sources you require and do so entirely of your own volition.
*Ok, well not deadly and strictly speaking not sins but definitely seven things you should try to avoid doing.
It’s almost the end of the year, so what better time is there for us here at the Hub to reflect on some of the most common student queries and missteps we have encountered over the past few months in an effort to stop you bringing those bad habits back with you in September. How many of these have you been guilty of this year?!
So far on HEHistoryHub, we’ve focused mainly on undergraduate history students, freshers in particular. But they’re not the only ones starting out on degrees at this time of year, of course. Universities also welcome their new postgraduate students at this time of year – those doing taught degrees (Masters, or MLitts if you’re in Scotland) as well as those doing research degrees. Studying at postgraduate level throws up a whole new set of challenges, so we’ll be looking at studying history at postgraduate level on HEHistoryHub too. Today, I’d just like to go over some of the main differences between undergraduate degrees and masters degrees, in particular the things that seem to throw new MA students for a bit of a loop.
In my previous post, I explained what a lecture is, why we still use lectures to teach history, and what you should expect when you turn up to class. In this post, I’ll go through some practical ways of getting the most from your lectures – whether you need to show up at all, how to prepare, what to do in the lecture theatre and how to stop everything leaving your head the minute the lecturer stops talking…
Your first choice is whether or not you’re going to turn up – if the lecture is at 9 am after the big student club night, on the far side of town/campus, it’s raining and you’re just not sure you’re that bothered. You’re not sure what the lecture’s on today. You can catch up from someone else or using VLE support…
Well, yes, you can, but there are several reasons for making the effort to go to that lecture:
Term’s probably underway or about to be underway for most history students now, so it is a good time to think about the ways in which you’re taught at university. For history students, lectures are probably the most obvious form of teaching you encounter. But what are they and why do we do them? Should we even be doing them, and should you be attending? In this post, I’ll try to break down the reasons for the lecture, then a follow-up post later in the week will look at some techniques for getting the most from lectures.
One of the things we are keen to stress on HE History Hub is where history at university differs from history at school. A good example of this is how your history department is staffed, and how it fits in with the wider university. Because teaching is only part of what goes on at a university, there are loads of bits of the university machine that you might not get to experience first-hand. If you’re in a medium to large sized department, you probably won’t be taught by anything like all of the staff on the books. Nonetheless, getting to know who is who is a good way of settling in, discovering your new surroundings, and broadening your understanding of history. Most departments will have a section of their website dedicated to their staff, their research interests and teaching – take the time to browse this before you arrive, so you have some idea of who does what.