Themes & Sources Watch

Savannah07
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#1
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Hi,

I've got a few themes and sources questions and I was wondering whether any historians might be able to help me.

Basically, i've spent about 2 weeks on it now and I've read a fair bit, but I don't really know where to take it from this point. I've read everything my supervisor suggested and everything I can see on the library shelves on my topic, as well as looking at some primary stuff in the UL. Should i ask my supervisor for some more bibliographical info?

Also, how much time should I be spending on it? A month on research? 6 weeks? Is that too much/ not enough? I have no idea what I'm doing and it all feels a bit aimless at the moment! I would really appreciate any advice if you have any.
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FadeToBlackout
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Look through the bibliographies of the books that you've looked at so far. Also, check out Jstor for book reviews. I plugged "Plague", "Black Death", and the other relevant search terms for my T&S into Jstor and came up with a wealth of useful stuff.

Over the summer, anything more than a month or so is probably too much. Some people do far less than that; some do more. I suppose I spent about 6 weeks on it, because I couldn't work at first and hadn't anything better to do! Plus I really enjoyed it, and the enjoyment payed off with a high mark.

Basically, I totally geeked out with my T&S and spent more time on it that most other people; I had a 300 item bibliography (though about 100 of them were book reviews and 100 journal articles) and some primary sources- I'd been to the county archives to look back through parish records, as well as looking at some other useful collections.

Ideally, you want to be at a point at the end of the holidays where you could sit down and write the essay- you don't want to give yourself too much to do over Christmas! I'd look through the books you've used thus far, look through Jstor, and generally see. Maybe start to jot down a few ideas- perhaps talk to people about the topic (which helps marshal your ideas!) reply to relevant threads on TSR (and, yes, I did like pwning sixth-formers with excessive amounts of detail...) or- and this is most fun!- find a whiteboard and some pens and do a big spider diagram. Start to think about where you want to go with your answer, so that'll help you get focus overall.

Hope that helps!
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*Di*
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300 item bibliography? Are you serious? I'`ve heard something around 30 -40 is expected...
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coldfish
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Shh... don't say anything, Historians measure their ego by counting their bibliography. You might hurt his feelings. :P
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Schott
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Am starting this year and read in the course breakdown that we have the Themes&Sources module you mention. What exactly is this? What do you do?

Is it a bit like the module in A Level history where you have a question and loads of sources which you have to use and go through, but obviously at a higher level in your degree?
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Savannah07
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i have tried using the bibliographies of articles & books but basically they are referring to the exact same sources that I have read so it's not proving too useful a tactic!

I think the problem is the question I chose because there isn't a lot written on it- only two books on the direct topic and only a handful of journal articles- and although there is a fair amount of primary stuff large parts of the collection i am using were destroyed in WW2. I don't think i am going to be able to use these sources (which tend to be interesting but irrelevant) to say anything very original which is my main concern really. Maybe I should switch topics? It would be quite annoying to abandon it though because I have put quite a bit of work into it.

Di- my DOS showed me a completed themes and sources essay (not on my theme unfortunately) and the bibliography was 2 sides of A4 so i wouldn't worry too much, though i have to say a 300 item blbilo is pretty impressive!
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Savannah07
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oh and themes and sources is basically a 3000-5000 word essay on a particular theme (e.g. the body and society). You have a series of classes (of up to 25 ppl) in lent and easter term on particular issues to do with this theme. These involve reading and discussing primary sources with a cambridge expert on that week's topic which will address the larger theme you have chosen in some way. In june you get given a list of questions related to the stuff you have looked at in class. You then choose one question that interests you and go away and research & write on it. It isn't really like an a-level source paper at all i don't think, probably more like a-level history coursework because it is just one question and you are trying to integrate the sources smoothly into the argument- you are not just being asked to pick them apart. Plus you have to go out and find them yourself!
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Schott
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Ouch sounds hard How do you research it during the holidays if you don't have easy access to Cambridge? Books in the local library etc is it?
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Savannah07
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I had to stay behind after term and do it. Local library almost definitely won't cut it, though if you live near a decent uni you can probably get hold of a fair amount of secondary stuff. I don't sadly. It has been a bit of a hassle sorting it out. Vac res rents and travel costs add up as well, but it pretty interesting research so I don't mind too much.
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Schott
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Ah. I'm lucky enough to have a uni quite near me though I'm not sure if it's open access. So how exactly does Cam expect you to do it? Do they actually expect most students to stay during the holidays?
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*Di*
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Personally, I've managed to take quite a few books out of various Cambridge libraries that are quite useful for my t and s and many of the sources I need are online. I'm still coming back to Cambridge 2 weeks before beginning of term to read the rest in the UL (I'll hopefully know which rest by then ...).
My DoS expects to see a full draft of the essay at the beginning of term and told us to spend about 4 weeks on it during the long vac. Maybe that's a help.
re bibliography. Do people actually mention all the works they read there or just the ones they quoted or refered to in the essay? In case it's the latter (which I always believed...) I'm thinking it would be quite hard to fit in 300 references in a 5000 word essay ... but it's really impressive you've put in that much effort!
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(Original post by *Di*)
Personally, I've managed to take quite a few books out of various Cambridge libraries that are quite useful for my t and s and many of the sources I need are online. I'm still coming back to Cambridge 2 weeks before beginning of term to read the rest in the UL (I'll hopefully know which rest by then ...).
My DoS expects to see a full draft of the essay at the beginning of term and told us to spend about 4 weeks on it during the long vac. Maybe that's a help.
re bibliography. Do people actually mention all the works they read there or just the ones they quoted or refered to in the essay? In case it's the latter (which I always believed...) I'm thinking it would be quite hard to fit in 300 references in a 5000 word essay ... but it's really impressive you've put in that much effort!

So does that mean History first years can't really do any paid work in the long vacation?
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FadeToBlackout
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(Original post by 3232)
So does that mean History first years can't really do any paid work in the long vacation?
According to various people, you shouldn't have to do more than 6 weeks paid work in the vacation- that's with 4 weeks of academic work, and a couple of weeks off relaxing. So far this vacation (between second and third years) I've done dissertation stuff and relaxed, but have LOADS more diss. AND I've run out of money. Oops.

Personally, I've managed to take quite a few books out of various Cambridge libraries that are quite useful for my t and s and many of the sources I need are online. I'm still coming back to Cambridge 2 weeks before beginning of term to read the rest in the UL (I'll hopefully know which rest by then ...).
My DoS expects to see a full draft of the essay at the beginning of term and told us to spend about 4 weeks on it during the long vac. Maybe that's a help.
re bibliography. Do people actually mention all the works they read there or just the ones they quoted or refered to in the essay? In case it's the latter (which I always believed...) I'm thinking it would be quite hard to fit in 300 references in a 5000 word essay ... but it's really impressive you've put in that much effort!
It was about 125 references. I noted down everything I'd used; about 60 or 70 of the things on the bibliog. were next to useless, about 100 or so had very little from them, and the rest were useful. I raided Jstor for articles, and just basically read a lot.

I had to stay behind after term and do it. Local library almost definitely won't cut it, though if you live near a decent uni you can probably get hold of a fair amount of secondary stuff. I don't sadly. It has been a bit of a hassle sorting it out. Vac res rents and travel costs add up as well, but it pretty interesting research so I don't mind too much.
Actually, local library can cut it- every library in the country has access to the national network of libraries, with the British Library at the top, so you can theoretically get any book you want ordered to your local library for a few pounds. But the UL is just a LOT easier.

Ah. I'm lucky enough to have a uni quite near me though I'm not sure if it's open access. So how exactly does Cam expect you to do it? Do they actually expect most students to stay during the holidays?
I commuted to Reading University library for about a month at the start of the summer vac- which was great, because I'd been there a couple of times for my A2 Personal Study. I fulfilled an ambition of mine and signed myself in as a visitor with "Clare College, Cambridge" in the "Institution" column- which was fantastic because back in year 13 I never thought I'd be able to do it.

Most people manage at home. I was particularly geeky and stayed in Cambridge; it's home to me now, and I've got so much to do.

300 item bibliography? Are you serious? I'`ve heard something around 30 -40 is expected...
Yes- though what's expected and what I serve up to the examiners once I've latched onto a topic are different things. I did get a I* for the essay (my first and only one ever!) so I like to think it all paid off...

I think the problem is the question I chose because there isn't a lot written on it- only two books on the direct topic and only a handful of journal articles- and although there is a fair amount of primary stuff large parts of the collection i am using were destroyed in WW2. I don't think i am going to be able to use these sources (which tend to be interesting but irrelevant) to say anything very original which is my main concern really. Maybe I should switch topics? It would be quite annoying to abandon it though because I have put quite a bit of work into it.
This isn't necesserily a bad thing. The less primary stuff there is, the more you can master- and the bigger the lack of secondary, the more chance there is of your coming up with original thinking and writing, which is a Good Thing.
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