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    I'm hoping to apply for M.Phil entry into the Cambridge History Department for the 2014/15 cycle, and was more than a little confused by a couple of things in the application process:

    (1) Is there an expected or conventional format for M.Phil research proposals? One of the advisory notes on the history department website is to avoid "colons followed by subtitles" in your research proposal -- is this warning against any use of subtitles? All the example research proposals on the English department website are block texts with indentation, i.e. no subtitles (although these proposals are 500 words, whereas mine is up to 1000).

    (2) There's a writing-box on the GRADSAF (the online application form) called "research proposal or reason for applying", yet the History Department explicitly tells you to upload your research proposal separately (because it exceeds the word limit of the box on the form presumably) -- so what do I write in the box..?

    Sorry if these are stupid questions, but any help would be really appreciated

    Thanks in advance!
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    (Original post by wilson_smith)
    I'm hoping to apply for M.Phil entry into the Cambridge History Department for the 2014/15 cycle, and was more than a little confused by a couple of things in the application process:

    (1) Is there an expected or conventional format for M.Phil research proposals? One of the advisory notes on the history department website is to avoid "colons followed by subtitles" in your research proposal -- is this warning against any use of subtitles? All the example research proposals on the English department website are block texts with indentation, i.e. no subtitles (although these proposals are 500 words, whereas mine is up to 1000).

    (2) There's a writing-box on the GRADSAF (the online application form) called "research proposal or reason for applying", yet the History Department explicitly tells you to upload your research proposal separately (because it exceeds the word limit of the box on the form presumably) -- so what do I write in the box..?

    Sorry if these are stupid questions, but any help would be really appreciated

    Thanks in advance!
    When I applied for one of the History MPhils I was completely clueless. I just wrote up a quite basic outline of the questions I was interested in, and discussed some of the significant historiography, and the gaps in it/problems with it. Looking back now I can't believe my arrogance I did footnote, but only really when I had a direct quotation from something, and I didn't include a bibliography. Remember that the research proposal is there to help the Faculty assign you to a supervisor, so try & make sure your interests are as clearly explained as possible. No one will expect a fully-developed research plan or topic, it's seen as a way of gauging your interests and whether you have a viable, original idea in mind to research.

    On the 'do not use subtitles' thing, Cambridge is CRAZY about not using over-decorative titles for theses. So DO NOT give your project a title such as ''The great and mysterious Orient': the early modern view of China' or something like that. They basically mean do not pluck a quotation from either a primary & secondary source as a kind of rhetorical flourish, and then basically have the real title after the colon. They want the title to be as descriptive & yet as short as possible. So for the example above, you could drop the quotation and instead call it 'Seventeenth century English views of China', which is an accurate & succinct title.

    For the box on GRADSAF, I think I just used that space to outline why I was applying to that particular MPhil - choice of modules, staff, etc. I don't think it's majorly important: your transcript, references & research proposal are the real meat of your application.

    If you've any other questions please feel free to ask!
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    (Original post by gutenberg)
    When I applied for one of the History MPhils I was completely clueless. I just wrote up a quite basic outline of the questions I was interested in, and discussed some of the significant historiography, and the gaps in it/problems with it. Looking back now I can't believe my arrogance I did footnote, but only really when I had a direct quotation from something, and I didn't include a bibliography. Remember that the research proposal is there to help the Faculty assign you to a supervisor, so try & make sure your interests are as clearly explained as possible. No one will expect a fully-developed research plan or topic, it's seen as a way of gauging your interests and whether you have a viable, original idea in mind to research.

    On the 'do not use subtitles' thing, Cambridge is CRAZY about not using over-decorative titles for theses. So DO NOT give your project a title such as ''The great and mysterious Orient': the early modern view of China' or something like that. They basically mean do not pluck a quotation from either a primary & secondary source as a kind of rhetorical flourish, and then basically have the real title after the colon. They want the title to be as descriptive & yet as short as possible. So for the example above, you could drop the quotation and instead call it 'Seventeenth century English views of China', which is an accurate & succinct title.

    For the box on GRADSAF, I think I just used that space to outline why I was applying to that particular MPhil - choice of modules, staff, etc. I don't think it's majorly important: your transcript, references & research proposal are the real meat of your application.

    If you've any other questions please feel free to ask!
    This was really helpful, thanks so much!

    Just to clarify, do you mean to say that putting your proposal into sections with their own headings is accepted practice?

    One final question (sorry!): there's a section called 'awards', which I know other people have used to put something to the effect of 'highest honours in year-group' or 'second highest marks in thesis in year-group'. I got the second highest honours in my year-group (of approx 110), but wasn't given a physical certificate or anything for that reason. Do you think it would be okay for me to list it as an 'award' (I was obviously awarded my honours...)?

    Thanks again!
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    (Original post by wilson_smith)
    This was really helpful, thanks so much!

    Just to clarify, do you mean to say that putting your proposal into sections with their own headings is accepted practice?

    One final question (sorry!): there's a section called 'awards', which I know other people have used to put something to the effect of 'highest honours in year-group' or 'second highest marks in thesis in year-group'. I got the second highest honours in my year-group (of approx 110), but wasn't given a physical certificate or anything for that reason. Do you think it would be okay for me to list it as an 'award' (I was obviously awarded my honours...)?

    Thanks again!
    You can divide things into sections with headings if you want; I didn't do that with my MPhil proposal, but did with my PhD proposal, and both were accepted so I don't think there is any one way of doing it. If you find headings useful to organise and structure things, then by all means use them.

    To be honest, I didn't list anything like 'highest marks in year group' or whatever in the 'awards' section (I didn't think that counted as an award!): I just listed actual awards I had won, i.e. things that came with prize money or a certificate, and things like scholarships from my undergrad uni. That's not to say you can't do that, but it's certainly not what I did - but then my transcript included my rank in my cohort, so perhaps that's why I didn't think to do that.

    Which MPhil are you applying to? I'm here if you've any further questions
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    (Original post by gutenberg)
    You can divide things into sections with headings if you want; I didn't do that with my MPhil proposal, but did with my PhD proposal, and both were accepted so I don't think there is any one way of doing it. If you find headings useful to organise and structure things, then by all means use them.

    To be honest, I didn't list anything like 'highest marks in year group' or whatever in the 'awards' section (I didn't think that counted as an award!): I just listed actual awards I had won, i.e. things that came with prize money or a certificate, and things like scholarships from my undergrad uni. That's not to say you can't do that, but it's certainly not what I did - but then my transcript included my rank in my cohort, so perhaps that's why I didn't think to do that.

    Which MPhil are you applying to? I'm here if you've any further questions
    Thanks and I probably incline towards agreeing with you that it is not an award -- I only really wanted to put it there for want of anywhere else to mention it, and given that others had mentioned putting something similar in the awards section (though they probably got a certificate...).

    Do you know how much emphasis is placed on interviews in the process -- are many people invited to interview but subsequently rejected? Are these particularly taxing meetings?

    I'm applying to Political Thought & Intellectual History!
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    As far as I know, there isn't an interview for admission to the MPhil programmes? :confused: Now that may have changed since I applied 3 years ago, but as far as I'm aware none of the MPhils interview, they just consider your submitted documents. The only vaguely comparable thing I've heard of was a friend was contacted about her research proposal by a prospective supervisor when she applied to the Modern European History MPhil, as they wanted more detail to enable an appropriate supervisor to be assigned. But that's about the extent of it as far as I know.

    If you're applying for funding and get through to the second round of competitions like the AHRC, you will probably be contacted by your prospective supervisor to talk about your project, which I suppose counts as an 'interview' of sorts: mine was very informal and conducted over the phone, as I believe a lot of them are, unless that's what you're thinking of? Some funding competitions like Gates will have a more thorough interview if you get through to the last few rounds.

    PTIH is one of the largest MPhil groups, if not *the* largest. To be very honest, I think if your grades are good (i.e. you've been scoring firsts or high 2.1s throughout your degree) then you have an excellent chance of being admitted, provided your proposed research fits even loosely with someone in the Faculty at Cambridge. The ratio of applicants:acceptances is quite high for History MPhils, I don't think they're as hugely oversubscribed as other courses in the university. In my opinion the difficult part is getting funding, not getting a place, provided you meet their minimum academic criteria
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    (Original post by gutenberg)
    As far as I know, there isn't an interview for admission to the MPhil programmes? :confused: Now that may have changed since I applied 3 years ago, but as far as I'm aware none of the MPhils interview, they just consider your submitted documents. The only vaguely comparable thing I've heard of was a friend was contacted about her research proposal by a prospective supervisor when she applied to the Modern European History MPhil, as they wanted more detail to enable an appropriate supervisor to be assigned. But that's about the extent of it as far as I know.

    If you're applying for funding and get through to the second round of competitions like the AHRC, you will probably be contacted by your prospective supervisor to talk about your project, which I suppose counts as an 'interview' of sorts: mine was very informal and conducted over the phone, as I believe a lot of them are, unless that's what you're thinking of? Some funding competitions like Gates will have a more thorough interview if you get through to the last few rounds.
    This is slightly confusing, I was of the initial understanding that there weren't any interviews for M.Phil entry, until I read the following on the History Department FAQ pages: "All applicants for admission to graduate study in History must be interviewed by their prospective supervisor. This interview may be in person, or via a telephone conversation". I asked on one of the big Cambridge postgraduate entry threads and one or two people said that interviews were a precondition to an offer :confused:

    (Original post by gutenberg)
    PTIH is one of the largest MPhil groups, if not *the* largest. To be very honest, I think if your grades are good (i.e. you've been scoring firsts or high 2.1s throughout your degree) then you have an excellent chance of being admitted, provided your proposed research fits even loosely with someone in the Faculty at Cambridge. The ratio of applicants:acceptances is quite high for History MPhils, I don't think they're as hugely oversubscribed as other courses in the university. In my opinion the difficult part is getting funding, not getting a place, provided you meet their minimum academic criteria
    This is good news, I must admit I did notice the admissions statistics for the course -- something like a 2:1 applications to admissions ratio. Perhaps unwisely, funding is something I have as yet postponed dealing with (and indeed, knowing anything about) until I finish the first draft of my research proposal. Out of curiosity, what percentage of offer-holders would you say received funding?

    Thanks again! I have been wondering about a few of these things for over a month
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    (Original post by wilson_smith)
    This is slightly confusing, I was of the initial understanding that there weren't any interviews for M.Phil entry, until I read the following on the History Department FAQ pages: "All applicants for admission to graduate study in History must be interviewed by their prospective supervisor. This interview may be in person, or via a telephone conversation". I asked on one of the big Cambridge postgraduate entry threads and one or two people said that interviews were a precondition to an offer :confused:
    I think interviews are common in some subjects, yes. To be honest, I don't know about History, if it says that on their admissions page; my gut instinct would be that it applies more to PhDs than MPhils. I think some of my MPhil cohort received emails from their supervisors, but usually after admission; as I said mine phoned me, but that was after I had been admitted and was actually for the purposes of funding, rather than admission. So I suppose it's best to be prepared that you may get a phonecall about your application, but from my memory of mine, it was quite a general conversation about my interests and my previous academic history: what courses I had taken before, which I liked, what my final year dissertation was on, etc. So nothing to get too worked up over.

    This is good news, I must admit I did notice the admissions statistics for the course -- something like a 2:1 applications to admissions ratio. Perhaps unwisely, funding is something I have as yet postponed dealing with (and indeed, knowing anything about) until I finish the first draft of my research proposal. Out of curiosity, what percentage of offer-holders would you say received funding?
    There are percentages on the website somewhere about the numbers of MPhils & PhDs with funding, but they are sobering reading. The great majority of MPhils will be self-funded. Funding for Master's is extremely limited, with only a few AHRC awards a year, for example. Are you from the UK, or overseas, or EU? That will affect what funding you are eligible for. UK & EU students are eligible for AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council), while also being eligible for CHESS, a university-wide scheme. Then there is also college funding, which depends on the individual college as to who is eligible, how much they give, etc.
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    (Original post by gutenberg)
    I think interviews are common in some subjects, yes. To be honest, I don't know about History, if it says that on their admissions page; my gut instinct would be that it applies more to PhDs than MPhils. I think some of my MPhil cohort received emails from their supervisors, but usually after admission; as I said mine phoned me, but that was after I had been admitted and was actually for the purposes of funding, rather than admission. So I suppose it's best to be prepared that you may get a phonecall about your application, but from my memory of mine, it was quite a general conversation about my interests and my previous academic history: what courses I had taken before, which I liked, what my final year dissertation was on, etc. So nothing to get too worked up over.

    There are percentages on the website somewhere about the numbers of MPhils & PhDs with funding, but they are sobering reading. The great majority of MPhils will be self-funded. Funding for Master's is extremely limited, with only a few AHRC awards a year, for example. Are you from the UK, or overseas, or EU? That will affect what funding you are eligible for. UK & EU students are eligible for AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council), while also being eligible for CHESS, a university-wide scheme. Then there is also college funding, which depends on the individual college as to who is eligible, how much they give, etc.
    I'm a UK applicant -- I found the figures: 67% of UK/EU M.Phil candidates are self-funded. I thought it would be higher than that to be honest, notwithstanding that 'not self-funded' is a little ambiguous, and might include being privately sponsored (though I doubt it, because that would render the statistic rather obsolete).
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    (Original post by wilson_smith)
    I'm a UK applicant -- I found the figures: 67% of UK/EU M.Phil candidates are self-funded. I thought it would be higher than that to be honest, notwithstanding that 'not self-funded' is a little ambiguous, and might include being privately sponsored (though I doubt it, because that would render the statistic rather obsolete).
    Yes, they are the figures I was thinking of. In my year of my MPhil, I can think of maybe 5 of us that had funding? Out of a class of 26, and we were just one MPhil: there were all the other MPhils that funding had to be spread around to as well. From my experience, I found the History Faculty to be quite conservative in terms of who they gave Master's funding in particular to: all but one of the funded MPhils I knew were Cambridge undergrads. In addition, the college funding system seems to tilt in favour of those already at Cambridge; all in all there is a slight 'internal bias' when it comes to giving money. This is not to say that you won't get any funding, it is definitely possible, but just be aware of both the limited amount & the problems of being an external candidate, it does put you at a disadvantage. What was so galling in my particular cohort of MPhils was that to receive an AHRC Master's award, you usually have to state your intention of continuing to the PhD afterwards: of the people that I knew with AHRC money, all but one DIDN'T continue to the PhD. And not just that they applied and didn't get accepted, or ultimately didn't get the grades or whatever, all bar one didn't even apply for a PhD when the time came, and funnily enough they were all former Cambridge undergrads. Now, of course people can change their minds etc, and when you have to apply so early it's hard to know what your plans and desires will be almost a full year from then, but it was a bit annoying at the time.
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    (Original post by gutenberg)
    When I applied for one of the History MPhils I was completely clueless. I just wrote up a quite basic outline of the questions I was interested in, and discussed some of the significant historiography, and the gaps in it/problems with it. Looking back now I can't believe my arrogance I did footnote, but only really when I had a direct quotation from something, and I didn't include a bibliography. Remember that the research proposal is there to help the Faculty assign you to a supervisor, so try & make sure your interests are as clearly explained as possible. No one will expect a fully-developed research plan or topic, it's seen as a way of gauging your interests and whether you have a viable, original idea in mind to research.


    If you've any other questions please feel free to ask!
    I'm going to be doing this for the new MSt-- which I take to be a sort of stretched-out adaptation of the MPhil.

    Cambridge seems to offer very little guidance on the problem. Oxford at least has a suggested/required outline on their website, and (for example) the Harvard Extension School has a large section of their website with procedures, samples, time-lines, etc. Harvard seems to want 15-20 pages and says it can take months to write! Hardly the 2-5pp. that Cambridge asks you to dash off.

    Have you ever known anyone to get to Cambridge and be steered away from their topic, or forced to drop it if the data just didn't turn up anything worthwhile?

    Anyway, I'm sufficiently terrified of this that if I didn't think I had a free lunch dropped on me I would shy away. This would be for a pretty well-written about period, but I was able to stumble upon a journal kept by a very good observer that should provide a lot of color to the day-to-day stuff missing from the studies of public proclamations, newspaper reports, sermon titles, etc. I'm hoping that this will provide enough of an angle to justify 50 pages of work.
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    (Original post by Camilli)
    I'm going to be doing this for the new MSt-- which I take to be a sort of stretched-out adaptation of the MPhil.

    Cambridge seems to offer very little guidance on the problem. Oxford at least has a suggested/required outline on their website, and (for example) the Harvard Extension School has a large section of their website with procedures, samples, time-lines, etc. Harvard seems to want 15-20 pages and says it can take months to write! Hardly the 2-5pp. that Cambridge asks you to dash off.

    Have you ever known anyone to get to Cambridge and be steered away from their topic, or forced to drop it if the data just didn't turn up anything worthwhile?

    Anyway, I'm sufficiently terrified of this that if I didn't think I had a free lunch dropped on me I would shy away. This would be for a pretty well-written about period, but I was able to stumble upon a journal kept by a very good observer that should provide a lot of color to the day-to-day stuff missing from the studies of public proclamations, newspaper reports, sermon titles, etc. I'm hoping that this will provide enough of an angle to justify 50 pages of work.
    In my experience, people weren't necessarily steered away from their topic, but found that it changed naturally as they did more research - but usually it wasn't the supervisor pushing them in a different direction per se, just that when they got into the meat of the dissertation some new angles were thrown up. I also haven't heard of anyone forced to drop a topic. But that would be because I feel that in the admissions process, they are fairly good at picking up when a proposed topic is thin on sources, or might run into problems - and they will often contact you during the admissions process if they have this fear, and you're otherwise a good candidate (happened to a friend of mine). In addition, during the earlier terms of the course, you and your supervisor will meet about the dissertation, so that by the time you will start the real research & writing process, you will have identified your core questions, sources etc., so there should be absolutely no reason why you should have to stop with a particular topic - if it's problematic, I feel this will be flagged quite early.
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    If they'll contact you during admissions, that is good to know. Much better than blackballing you for not getting it perfect.
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    (Original post by Camilli)
    If they'll contact you during admissions, that is good to know. Much better than blackballing you for not getting it perfect.
    I wouldn't say it's a hard and fast rule that they'll contact you during admissions - I have heard of people that were, but that could be course and even supervisor-specific. I feel that if your application is otherwise good (grades, references etc) then as long as the research proposal is somewhat cogent you should be fine. Its main purpose is to assign you to a supervisor, and to make sure you have some idea of what you'd like to research before you arrive in Cam.
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    (Original post by Camilli)
    I'm going to be doing this for the new MSt-- which I take to be a sort of stretched-out adaptation of the MPhil.

    Cambridge seems to offer very little guidance on the problem. Oxford at least has a suggested/required outline on their website, and (for example) the Harvard Extension School has a large section of their website with procedures, samples, time-lines, etc. Harvard seems to want 15-20 pages and says it can take months to write! Hardly the 2-5pp. that Cambridge asks you to dash off.

    Have you ever known anyone to get to Cambridge and be steered away from their topic, or forced to drop it if the data just didn't turn up anything worthwhile?

    Anyway, I'm sufficiently terrified of this that if I didn't think I had a free lunch dropped on me I would shy away. This would be for a pretty well-written about period, but I was able to stumble upon a journal kept by a very good observer that should provide a lot of color to the day-to-day stuff missing from the studies of public proclamations, newspaper reports, sermon titles, etc. I'm hoping that this will provide enough of an angle to justify 50 pages of work.
    Don't compare it to Harvard extension school. For Cambridge, you are writing a brief outline of what you want to research and basically just need to demonstrate why your research will be useful, that you have done some reading around it, etc. The HES proposal, if I recall correctly, is only done once you are quite far into the course and have already done a lot of reading around your thesis subject and therefore are expected to know much more about it than at the application stage, which is where you are with Cam. It's quite a different animal.
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    (Original post by sj27)
    Don't compare it to Harvard extension school. For Cambridge, you are writing a brief outline of what you want to research and basically just need to demonstrate why your research will be useful, that you have done some reading around it, etc. The HES proposal, if I recall correctly, is only done once you are quite far into the course and have already done a lot of reading around your thesis subject and therefore are expected to know much more about it than at the application stage, which is where you are with Cam. It's quite a different animal.
    Thanks.

    Another question for history applicants: the application asks you to list specific and general skill (those held, and those needed). This may be part of the UK vocabulary but I'm somewhat at a loss. After all, I can read, write, evaluate evidence, and so on, but that's a little more vague than understanding Sanskrit or needing to know how to perform tracheotomies with a pen-knife. I'm going to spin through the undergrad history websites for Oxbridge to see what they think they teach people, but is there another thing that I'm missing completely?

    FWIW, I'd be doing American history-- documents in more or less modern English.

    Also-- they ask if I've ever done a research project. Considering that one of the required supplementary documents is a research paper, that seems a little odd.
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    does anybody know how many people apply for a M.Phil and how many entrants actually receive an offer? thanks!
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    (Original post by emilym13)
    does anybody know how many people apply for a M.Phil and how many entrants actually receive an offer? thanks!
    You can find some data here - http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/camd...tgraduate.html - both for all MPhils in total and for individual courses, but it's a few years out of date.
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    (Original post by Camilli)
    Thanks.

    Another question for history applicants: the application asks you to list specific and general skill (those held, and those needed). This may be part of the UK vocabulary but I'm somewhat at a loss. After all, I can read, write, evaluate evidence, and so on, but that's a little more vague than understanding Sanskrit or needing to know how to perform tracheotomies with a pen-knife. I'm going to spin through the undergrad history websites for Oxbridge to see what they think they teach people, but is there another thing that I'm missing completely?

    FWIW, I'd be doing American history-- documents in more or less modern English.

    Also-- they ask if I've ever done a research project. Considering that one of the required supplementary documents is a research paper, that seems a little odd.
    They mean skills such as Latin, or paleography training, or if you've had training in oral history for instance, or digital training. Skills that are likely to help you in a history research project, although I agree that some (such as Latin, or paleography) may be more applicable to medieval/early modern applicants. Similarly, they ask you to specify your training needs. So for instance if you wanted to learn how to construct a database, or improve your Spanish, to help you with your course then you can ask there.

    By 'research project' they usually mean an extended piece of work/research, which would usually mean an undergrad dissertation rather than a piece of coursework, even if it was heavily research-based. Similarly, some European applicants will be applying with a Master's in hand already (I've met a few MPhils who already hold European MAs) and so they will have undertaken a large research project as part of that.
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    Sorry to jump in here, but I'm looking to apply for Political Theory MAs/PhDs at other institutions (MPhil Political Theory at Oxford) and stumbled upon the MPhil Political Thought and Intellectual History. Seeing as it's offered by the History department, do you think a non-historical background/focus is problematic? I'm interested in 20th century continental political theory and socialist political thought, but not from a historical perspective per se - more so with a view to a contemporary application. It seems like a fair share of the faculty specialises in political theory. Will I fit in?
 
 
 

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