How many sources do you use for your standard uni history essay (2,000-2,500 words)?

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Vincente
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Obviously there is no definitive number of sources which you have to use but I guess every history student will be assessed on the variety and number (to a lesser degree) of sources used? I was having a debate with a friend on my course and he seems to stress that 20+ minimum is necessary when it comes to books and articles. However, I think you don't necessarily need that much although if you feel that the sources are relevant then why not. I tend to average out between 12-15.
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apotoftea
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Quality over quantity any day. You could have footnotes numbering 56 but mean absolutely naff all if you've not used them correctly. How long's a piece of string to be honest? From personal experience it could be anything from 8 to 25 depending on topic, whether I'm using primary or secondary and who I'm writing for.

Obviously you'll be better marked if you've read higher and wider than everyone else but only if you've used this reading to support your argument; if you haven't and are just showing off with a "my bibliography's 3 pages long" it's more likely to decrease the mark than anything else.
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Cessie
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For our standard 2000 word essays we are expected to use 6 and I tend to use about 8. (predominantly secondary sources)
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myrtille
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I've just checked a few of my essays from last year.

My short essays had between 5 and 12 sources on the bibliography. But the one with 12 got a considerably better mark than the one with 5, if I remember rightly. Still, I tend to get 2:1s, so even an essay with 5 sources clearly can work ok.

I think it really depends on what the essay title is and what books are available. Sometimes, you find books that directly address the question you're dealing with, and so you only need a few. But sometimes you have to trawl through loads of books and articles, to pick out anything relavent to the title.

I can't believe your lecturer wants you to use 20+ sources for a short essay! Surely the essay would end up as nothing but quotations, with no room to develop your ideas? I just checked the bibliographies of my long essays (4500 words) from last year, and one had 13 sources, the other had 18.
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rkd
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For my most recent essay, two primary sources (actually, more like four if you count the Lives of Becket separately - but published as one book), and I cited I think three secondary sources, though I'd read another three or four which I ended up not using.
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Snork Maiden
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My lecturers say aim for double figures if you want to get top marks in 2000-3000 word essays (and 25+ for 6,000 word ones). I use 12-15 in my short essays and I'm usually on the 2.1/1.1 border. The key is to read and make notes on the whole text though, I know people who use loads of sources but just skim read or pick out random paragraphs, the marker can always tell.
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Sam o0o
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(Original post by Snork Maiden)
My lecturers say aim for double figures if you want to get top marks in 2000-3000 word essays (and 25+ for 6,000 word ones). I use 12-15 in my short essays and I'm usually on the 2.1/1.1 border. The key is to read and make notes on the whole text though, I know people who use loads of sources but just skim read or pick out random paragraphs, the marker can always tell.
Reading 12-15 whole texts must take a loooong time! I thought part of history was learning HOW to skim read and pick out important sections effectively?
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myrtille
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(Original post by Sam o0o)
Reading 12-15 whole texts must take a loooong time! I thought part of history was learning HOW to skim read and pick out important sections effectively?
Sources aren't always entire books though. They're often articles or chapters.
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Snork Maiden
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(Original post by Keziah)
Sources aren't always entire books though. They're often articles or chapters.
Exactly. Obviously being able to quickly get to grips with a test is desirable but you need to pick out details in addition to the main thrust of the arguement.
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Vincente
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Reading 12-15 whole texts must take a loooong time! I thought part of history was learning HOW to skim read and pick out important sections effectively?
Actually most of us 'cheat' like academics do i.e. we just read the introduction and conclusion! Very handy though especially when your articles are 40+ pages and written in that overpretentious academic writing!
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Tomber
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Impossible to say, depending on what the essay was on it could be as few as 5 or 6, or as many as 30ish.
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Snork Maiden
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(Original post by Vincente)
Actually most of us 'cheat' like academics do i.e. we just read the introduction and conclusion! Very handy though especially when your articles are 40+ pages and written in that overpretentious academic writing!
Really!? My lecturers specifically warn us against that, aparently you may lose the complexity of the arguement. It seems that I've been missing a trick! If you don't mind me asking do you get good marks in your essays?
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Vincente
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Really!? My lecturers specifically warn us against that, aparently you may lose the complexity of the arguement. It seems that I've been missing a trick! If you don't mind me asking do you get good marks in your essays?
Well I've never scored anything below a low 2:1 but only scored a first class once for essays and assignments, is that considered good? But yeah I do it to a degree because the fact is the introduction and conclusion usually must incorporate the main and general ideas of an essay, the main body of the writing is just the details and the justifications. But mainly its for me to understand what an academic piece of writing is trying to tell me! I mean I'm sure you know the whole over the top academic style of writing which at times requires 2 or 3 reads to be fully processed in your head!
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Dionysus
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(Original post by Snork Maiden)
Really!? My lecturers specifically warn us against that, aparently you may lose the complexity of the arguement. It seems that I've been missing a trick! If you don't mind me asking do you get good marks in your essays?
Oh yeah, I do that too. Also, just look at footnotes in a text, figure out the point they're making, and use the footnote yourself.

i.e.

You're making a point from A, then see that they've used B, so you continue...

... "Alternatively, we can consider the work of B, who believed... blah blah"

You can end up with half a dozen sources where you understand what they were talking about but have never read it.
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Vincente
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Reportedly theres a cap on your mark if you didn't use enough sources at my department, though the figure is 3. How on earth do you do well anyway with that few??! This is according to one of my tutor/PHD student.
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apotoftea
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(Original post by Vincente)
Actually most of us 'cheat' like academics do i.e. we just read the introduction and conclusion! Very handy though especially when your articles are 40+ pages and written in that overpretentious academic writing!
If the index/contents page doesn't include what I need I don't even bother reading the introduction. Far too much to read and far little time to do it to spend your time reading stuff you don't actually need.

Skim reading's a wonderful thing :yep:
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Snork Maiden
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(Original post by Vincente)
Well I've never scored anything below a low 2:1 but only scored a first class once for essays and assignments, is that considered good? But yeah I do it to a degree because the fact is the introduction and conclusion usually must incorporate the main and general ideas of an essay, the main body of the writing is just the details and the justifications. But mainly its for me to understand what an academic piece of writing is trying to tell me! I mean I'm sure you know the whole over the top academic style of writing which at times requires 2 or 3 reads to be fully processed in your head!
Goodness! I mean, obviously I check a text is relevant before reading, but it still seems I've wasted hours and hours of my life reading extremely hard-core academic texts for very little difference in marks (I tend to get between 65-77%). Arrrrgh, why did I not know this in first year!?
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fake plastic love
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(Original post by Dionysus)
Oh yeah, I do that too. Also, just look at footnotes in a text, figure out the point they're making, and use the footnote yourself.

i.e.

You're making a point from A, then see that they've used B, so you continue...

... "Alternatively, we can consider the work of B, who believed... blah blah"

You can end up with half a dozen sources where you understand what they were talking about but have never read it.
Yes, this is what got me firsts in essays last year. :yy:

By the way, I usually have around 15 items on the bibliography.

Actually while I'm here can I go slightly OT and ask people - if you have read something but don't end up referencing it at all in the essay, would you include it in your bibliography or not? Because that seems wrong, but isnt the point for the tutor to see how much reading you've done?
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Vincente
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if you have read something but don't end up referencing it at all in the essay, would you include it in your bibliography or not?
If you got the 'general' ideas from that book I think you should.
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Dionysus
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(Original post by fake plastic love)
Yes, this is what got me firsts in essays last year. :yy:

By the way, I usually have around 15 items on the bibliography.

Actually while I'm here can I go slightly OT and ask people - if you have read something but don't end up referencing it at all in the essay, would you include it in your bibliography or not? Because that seems wrong, but isnt the point for the tutor to see how much reading you've done?
If it influenced the essay, then yes. You don't necessarily have to have quoted from it directly.
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