This is the time of year when QMUL second years who want to write a Historical Research Dissertation (a 15,000 word piece of original research) in their final year have to arrange supervisors and titles. Gratifyingly, I've had lots of students who want to study with me: so many that I've had to put some of them onto my colleagues. I don't think this is me, actually, but rather the subjects I teach – they're popular with students and lend themselves to archival research in London. I think it's important at this stage to get students thinking about narrowing down their topic as much as possible – these pieces are always much better if a case study is used to test a more general historical thesis. I also – quite unashamedly and with full acknowledgement – use the opportunity to benefit my own research, either because it forces me to find out about archives and topics with which I'm unfamiliar or because students research topics I'd love to look at it I had the time.
Last year's disertations are just in and include:
'The Great War Learning Curve: A Study of Divisional Improvement within the BEF' (a study of 36th Ulster Division at the Somme and Messines)
'Did service in the Women's Land Army during the Second World War revolutionise women's social consciousness?' and
'Britain's Youngest Line of Defence: To what extent were children in Essex indoctrinated by the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements during the First World War?'
Next year's topics include:
The role of women's voluntary service movements in the organisation of evacuee reception in Hertfordshire, 1939-1940
How was Irish service in the British armed forces during the Second World War commemorated?
The integration and organisation of French, Dutch and Belgian refugees in Britain during the Second World War.
Combat motivation in 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment, 1939-1945
Before they leave for the summer, I assign students secondary reading and a list of primary sources to locate and explore (although they don't have to look at every document immediately). When they return in August, they have to submit a report on progress which contributes 10% to their final mark.
It can be a new and challenging experience, so I thought that this year I'd blog parts of it, so that future students can follow the process through.