Dissertations.

Some history, as well as teaching stuff, soon I promise. Meanwhile, two page handout used in initial planning meeting with History Research Dissertation students over next couple of weeks.

History Research Dissertation 2006-7.

Things to do between now and the end of the summer

Admin

  • Draw up a week by week timetable from now until when the dissertation has to go in. Block out time when you will be away or unable to work on the dissertation. Plan when you are going to do your primary and secondary research, and when you will start writing. Your plans will change, and you will have to be flexible, but this should allow you to manage your workload
  • Start keeping a diary of how much time you spend on your dissertation research and writing. Remember that this is half of your final year. Get into the habit of checking how much time you’ve invested each week, and check whether you’re satisfied with your efforts, bearing in mind the stage of the year and your other commitments.

 

Research

  • Work from your copy of the Historical Research Dissertation proposal form, containing your inital question and themes.
  • Make a list of all the secondary sources you need to look at – you’ll keep updating this throughout the year. Start with reading lists from courses you studied which got you interested. Use the notes in these books, and published bibliographies, to build up your own reading list. Try to look for books which study the wider subject and will allow you to pick up themes. Search online archives – notably JSTOR – for potentially useful material.
  • Make a list of published primary sources on the same basis, and start to work out where they are. Can you get them from the UL? What about other libraries (the Department of Printed Books at the Imperial War Museum is particularly useful for most subjects I supervise on). Will you need to have access to the British Library?
  • Make a list of unpublished archive material you need to look at. Start by just identifying the archives, where they are, and how you can access them. Start with the obvious places (ie any organisations directly involved and still in existence) and then work out. You can search the archives of the IWM and the NA online.
  • Try to come up with a list of specific sources you will need to look at – something which you can work through and tick things off. Be open to a wide variety of sources – so search for images, sound recordings, film and newsreel as well as written material. Look for a mix of qualitative and quantitative data: it’s no use saying what something was like if you can’t say how much of it there was, and vice versa. Files which involve money are often particularly useful for providing quantitative data.
  • Make arrangements to visit each archive between now and the end of the summer, to get a sense for yourself of what sort of material it contains, how useful it is, and where you will focus your efforts.
  • This should provide you with a lot of material. Think about how you will focus on one study to allow you to answer your research questions.

I will ask to see all these plans, diaries, lists and notes in our first supervision meeting of the autumn term.

The Autumn Report is due in when you come back from the summer. To do well in this piece of work, you need to show:

i) that you have read a range of relevant secondary material and have a clear understanding of the topic

ii) that you have arranged access to the primary material, have actually looked at some of it, and that you can talk about what problems it might pose you (what’s not there? What can’t you find? Are the sources problematic in themselves?)

iii) that you have one main research question and a number of subsidiary research questions that you will try to answer. These will provide a thread for your research and writing. The subsidiary questions should break down your overall question into more manageable chunks.

iv) that you have a plan for your activities between the start of the year and your final submission.

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