Tag Archives: Study

Top 5 Practical Tips for your History Dissertation

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Whether you are a second year student preparing to start your final year dissertation, or a final year student in the midst of your research, below are my top five tips to completing your project. These aren’t tips on how to conduct your research or how to write coherently. Instead they focus on the more practical side of the dissertation experience, and are all things that I learnt and put into practice during my final year.

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To Masters Degree, Or Not To Masters Degree?


While this is definitely me studying, it’s most definitely not my university.

I love my university. I love the people, my course, the campus, and the experiences it has given me. But the history department here is small, and the university itself is very enterprise orientated. So where does that leave me in terms of further study?


When I say our history department is small, I mean that the staff fit into two fairly average sized offices, and that I have come into contact with pretty much all of them throughout my university career. That doesn’t mean we’re all best pals or anything, it’s just small, and because it’s so small it’s very student orientated. My lecturers know who they’re teaching, the biggest module I’m in this semester contains around 40 people – but split (unevenly) over two classes, meaning that my class is still small. Therefore my university history undergraduate experience has been very personal and I’ve felt supported at every step. The discussions are informal and the doors are always open, and yet it’s never felt like the university you see on the big screen, or what you imagine you’re filling out your UCAS application. For my masters I am thinking of applying to much bigger universities, with large faculties and more than six modules on offer each semester. This has left me wondering how I would manage the transition, not only from undergraduate to postgraduate, but also from student focused to an academics lead institution.

Life after graduation?

This brings me on to my seconds point. My current university is very career orientated, taking on the task of preparing its students for the ‘real world’, and this works for them. In terms of humanities graduates, over 90% are employed within a year of finishing their degrees, and in our second and third years we have compulsory modules on graduate and employability skills. Now this is very useful, and I’m not for one moment saying that it’s not. I like being able to pop into the careers office for a chat about my CV or help with an application, and this kind of support is what makes students from all the different schools employable. Where I feel it falls down is the promotion of further study as a valid pathway after graduation.

Apart from a few fantastically helpful people, postgraduate study (that is not a PGCE) has never been presented as a proper option. It’s been on the outside of our corporate based careers fairs, and for the two compulsory career conferences I’ve had to attend for humanities, those representing postgraduate study have failed to attend for various reasons.
I know that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I also know that postgraduate degrees in this country aren’t cheap, but this is why I wish the promotion would have been there. So prospective students could discuss options for funding and financial support, and pick the brains of postgrads who have gone on to take a number of different courses at different universities.

At this moment passion is my driving force, and I am being helped by some amazing individuals so who knows where I’ll be this time next year. All I know is that I have loved (and continue to love) my undergraduate experience, I would have just liked a little less of the ‘you-will-graduate-and-be-a-successful-high-flying-business-person’ approach, and more of a ‘look at all these options you could be considering!’
But then again, I’m coming to the end of my last semester as an undergraduate.
Maybe all of this is just an existential crisis?






This is purely based of my own experience and an afternoon of thinking a little too hard.
Is your university particularly employment/academics leaning?
How have your options been presented to you, if it all?  

Finals, Finals, Finals…

Finals time! This note from my RA says it all :)

Finals time! This note from my RA says it all 🙂

It’s that end of semester time again, a time that brings with it the impending joy of a break and Christmas but also essays and exams. This experience is different for me this year. I have a different university system to contend with and my list of pros and cons on this topic is pretty much even, so as an act of procrastination from revising I will share a few from the list with you!

– More assignments that are worth less.
Pro! It does feel like you’re back at school rather than university, but in my experience having just two chances to be assessed (essays, exams, or one of each) is kind of stressful. Each assignment is either worth 50% or it’s a disproportionate weighting of 70-30 and that’s a lot riding on one piece of work. However for my courses this year (Canadians call modules courses) I’ve had several essays or in class tests throughout the semester that break the weight up. This means that if you mess up on one thing, you have opportunity to make it up on the next assessed piece of work. One of my courses this semester has a final exam that is worth 30%, and that can only be a good thing!
Yes it’s more work, and often it’s harder work, but at least there’s not much of an end of semester rush, or work to do over Christmas.

-Participation marks
Pro! Do I even need to explain why having 10% of your final grade based upon your engagement in class is a good thing? (clue: easy marks)

Con…. But this is only because there is so much reading (I’m taking history so it’s my own fault). I think having two lectures a week and no seminar is why I find the reading amount challenging. It’s definitely do-able, but coming from a university where you have one lot of readings to discuss in a seminar each week, to one where you have two lots per week that are hardly discussed, was a shock to the system. Prioritising and time management are key.

So those are just a few of my observations! No doubt that once I have taken my exams and started next semester’s courses I’ll have few more things to say but for now, in my opinion, it’s important to appreciate the differences between my home and exchange university. No system is better than the other, they’re just different. This means that the approach to learning and the skills that are  developed are different, which is helping to reinforce the fact that there is more to life than passing exams. It’s what you gain while passing the exams that is important.

On that rather thoughtful note, I really should get back to revising! But I would love to know what are your opinions on this? Have you experienced a different style of university through being on exchange? Or are there things mentioned above that you wished your university implemented? *cough* participation marks *cough* 😉

à bientôt!