Life · University

How to Schedule Your Undergrad History Dissertation

It’s getting to the time of year when undergraduates start stressing about their dissertations and so I thought that I would try and help by setting out a basic schedule for when to write a dissertation. This schedule won’t work for everyone as not everyone likes working to a schedule and depending on where you are your dissertation will be due in earlier or later, or could be a different length. However, this will roughly work for a 10,000 word dissertation that is due in February/March/April of your final year of your degree.

 

Second Year:

It may seem early to do anything for your dissertation yet but as soon as you start Second year you should begin to think about what you would like to do your dissertation on. Are there any modules you’ve enjoyed or think you will enjoy? Is there a specific period of history you enjoy? A specific type such as military, political, feminist, gender, class, social, cultural, or something else? Maybe there is a specific group or person you like learning about? It is also important to consider that you will be working with your dissertation supervisor for a year and working on that topic for a year so choose not only a topic you like but a supervisor you like or that you can at least work with for that long. I was lucky in the fact that my favourite lecturer also taught one of my favourite areas of history. However, if you aren’t so lucky then pick an area of history you love and try to work on it in a way that you can get supervised by a lecturer you can work with. For instance, if you really like Germany in the interwar period but a lecturer you like specialises in Britain in the interwar period, you could look at Germany in the interwar period from a British point of view. Another important aspect to consider is how unique your research will be or what is something new that you can bring to academia on your topic. If your topic is over-saturated and your research doesn’t bring anything new to the topic then do not do it. Your topic doesn’t have to be ground-breaking but you cannot just reiterate information that has already been acknowledged.

In your second half of Second year you will probably be asked to fill out a form concerning the basic details of your dissertation proposal so it is important to be prepared for that. In my experience, it doesn’t have to be very detailed. You can even just simply state the person or period you want to study along with a topic and the lecturer you would like to be your supervisor. For instance, “post-war Britain with a focus on teenage leisure” can be your basic proposal. Just make sure you have a rough idea of what you want to do and what angle you want to take with it. You can then discuss your rough idea with your supervisor and narrow it down together. Your supervisor will probably help you begin to make a bibliography that you can use and will give you some tips on what to do over the summer.

 

Summer Break:

I would recommend trying to do as much research as you can in your summer break so that you have less work to do when you come back to uni for your final year. I would especially recommend trying to sort out as many of your primary sources as you can as these are oftener harder to sort out than secondary sources. For instance, if you are using oral history then conduct all of your interviews in the summer, or if your sources are at a particular archive such as the British Museum then go and look at your sources at the archive. If your sources are at an archive then make sure that they will be at the archive on the day that you visit. At the British Library, you can request that they have specific sources for you when you visit such as a specific photograph collection or book or magazine issue. Doing this will save you a lot of time later on. If it is easier, then when you visit the archive, take photos of your sources to read later on so that you can focus on getting all of the sources you need instead of getting all of them and reading them and taking notes all at the same time. This then also means that when you come to sort out all of your sources later on in the year that you can still read them as they are rather than relying on notes that you took when you visited.

In terms of secondary sources, these are also important to consider over the summer break. Although I did not look at all of my secondary sources over summer, I made sure that I read quite a few and made notes on them so that I had less to do when I started third year.

 

Third Year, Semester One:

At the beginning of the semester, the very first thing you should do is book a meeting with your supervisor/tutor and discuss the progress you have made so far and what the next step is. Depending on how much work you did over summer you will probably either have to find a few more final primary sources, find more secondary sources, or make sure you have got all that you can from your chosen sources. If your supervisor/tutor gives you any feedback on how to improve what you are doing, please make sure you listen to them as they are the ones marking it and also are more than likely an expert in the field you are researching. If you can, try and book weekly or fortnightly meetings with your supervisor so that you can update them on your progress and make sure you are going in the right direction. It will also force you to make sure you’re working instead of procrastinating which is so easy to do!

Once you have all of your primary sources and a large majority of your secondary sources you should be able to begin writing your dissertation. We had to write the first draft of our introduction or conclusion in the first half of the semester. It is probably easier to write the first draft of your introduction first and then edit it as you write the rest of your dissertation so that it fits with it.

In the second half of the semester, you should try and write a draft of at least one of your dissertation chapters. It doesn’t have to be the first chapter, it can be any chapter but you should try and write at least one chapter so that you have less work to do over Christmas and in the second semester. Trust me, the more work you do in semester one the more you will thank yourself.

 

Winter/Christmas Break:

It is so tempting to just relax over the break and not do any work but you should really try and do as much of your dissertation as you can whilst you don’t have lectures or other assignments. Of course, make sure you do have time to relax and take days off but you should also aim to write at least one more chapter over the break. I know I keep repeating myself, but the more work you do over the break, the less you have to do in semester two when workloads usually get pretty intense. Ideally, you should try and write at least two chapters over the break or a chapter and a conclusion. Also, if you are really behind, please make sure you at least have all of your research done by the time you return to university so that even if you have yet to write your dissertation, you don’t need to worry about reading more material.

 

Third Year, Semester Two:

It is probably obvious, but you should try and write and complete the first drafts of your entire dissertation as early as you can in this semester. It may be a lot of work but try and make targets of how many words you will write a day/week. The sooner you finish the first drafts, the sooner you can edit and change those drafts and the sooner you will have a completed dissertation!

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Life · University

I’m a University Graduate!

Yesterday I graduated from the University of Winchester with a BA Hons History degree! It feels surreal that I’ve graduated and am no longer an undergraduate student. I cannot believe that my time at Winchester has come to an end and I am no longer studying a subject that I love whilst being surrounded by some absolutely brilliant people.

My boyfriend’s graduation ceremony was on Wednesday and so we drove up to Winchester early on Wednesday morning to get there for his ceremony. I’m so proud of him and all that he has accomplished within his degree. It was wonderful to see him shake hands with the Chancellor and receive his diploma. After his ceremony we took photos him and went out to lunch with his family. His family left to go home after lunch. As my ceremony was the next morning, we had booked a hotel in the city and so used the rest of the afternoon to wander around the place that we had called home for the last three years.

We looked in a few shops and strolled up and down the high street, talking about memories we’d made throughout our degree. As I was a History student, I wanted to buy a history book to commemorate graduating with a 2:1 degree. Firstly, we looked in Waterstones at the bottom of the high street and I found a few books that I liked but did not feel special enough to buy for the occasion. This led to us walking up the high street to go to WHSmith (although we ended up walked past it completely), and going to the Waterstones at the top of the high street. We spent a good amount of time browsing the shelves before I decided to settle on buying Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman. This felt like a good choice as it is about important women from History and throughout my degree I have specialised on women’s history. My boyfriend was so sweet and insisted on buying it for me as a graduation present.

Then we headed to our hotel to check in, unpack and relax for a few hours before heading out to dinner. We’d booked a table at Prezzo as we thought it would be quite busy but it was actually quite quiet and we were served quickly. We then went to Spoons where we met some friends for drinks and to catch up. It was so nice to see them as we hadn’t seen each other since our last exams. When we were done we all headed back to our hotels together as the hotels were opposite each other. We got prepped for the morning and went to bed.

My ceremony was in the morning so we got up early to get ready and checked out of hotel at 8:30am. We then walked to the guildhall to collect my cap and gown, as well as my graduation tickets. I bumped into a few of my friends whilst we were in there had a quick catch up. Then we met my dad and step-mum and headed to the cathedral to wait for the doors to open. My ceremony was mainly for History related courses and so I had been lectures with the majority of people and recognised a lot of people I had seen over my three years at university, as well as friends of course. It was amazing to see everyone in their caps and gowns, everyone looked incredible and it was such a supportive atmosphere. It sounds stupid but you could tell that everyone was proud of each other.

When the cathedral doors opened to let people in, the guests went in one door and the graduands in another. We were seated alphabetically within our courses and luckily I was next to some friends. It was truly incredible to be able to watch people that I had been studying with for the last three years to get their hard earned degree and everyone beamed of joy. I was in the middle of the ceremony and so luckily I had seen what others were doing and had managed to calm my nerves about going up. We were taken up line-by-line by the ushers where we then shook hands with the head of History before being called up to shake hands with Alan Titchmarsh who said a few words to us, before we then walked off stage to receive our certificates.

Once everybody had received their certificates, the lecturers and PHD graduates walked through the main cathedral doors and we followed them out, then followed by the guests. I took lots of photos with my friends and my favourite lecturer. We all chatted and caught up with each other until it came to saying bye. It so strange that I will never have another lecture with those people every again and that we are all going our separate ways. It really does seem surreal that my degree is over.  I couldn’t have done it without my friends, family and lecturers and I am so grateful to everyone that came on this journey with me.

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Books

Library Book Haul

I went to my local library earlier this month and although I haven’t been reading much recently, I decided to pick up some books to try and get myself back into reading.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

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This is a contemporary YA book that is written in verse. It follows Xiomara who lives in Harlem with her twin brother, her father, and her religious mother. She feels like an outcast in her home and like nobody understands or even hears her. As a result, she shares all her thoughts in her notebook as it is the only place she can truly share how she feels.

 

Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

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If you couldn’t tell from the title, this is a nonfiction book filled with feminist essays. In this Beard looks at misogyny and sexism throughout history and the powerful women that experienced these issues.

 

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

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This is a fictional classic that I’ve been wanting to read for quite a while now and thought it would be great for Halloween. It is set in eighteenth-century France and follows a boy who is born with an absolute sense of smell. Due to his extraordinary sense of smell, he becomes a perfumer and becomes obsessed with capturing smells. As the title says “the story of a murderer”, I m assuming that he then goes on to become a murderer aha.

 

Those are all of the books that I have recently borrowed from the library. They aren’t many but I’m still in a reading slump and am hoping that they help me get out of it.

 

 

Life

We Fed Penguins!

Back in August, it was my boyfriends 21st birthday and for his present, I got him a penguin feeding experience. Penguins are his favourite animal and so I thought this would be the perfect gift for him.

I booked this at Bournemouth Oceanarium as it is local to us and so easy to get to. If you want to book a penguin experience then I would recommend booking at least 6 weeks in advance to make sure that they have availability on the date you want. I rang up a month in advance and the exact date I wanted was not available but luckily they had availability for the following days. In terms of price, it was £50 per person and you could have a maximum of two people participating in the experience, meaning it was £100 for both of us. Although this was quite expensive, I had saved up and been planning to do it for his 21st for quite a while. The price includes admission to the Oceanarium all day, going behind the scenes to see where the keepers prepare the fish for the penguins, one-on-one time with the penguin keeper, and feeding the penguins. It is also worth noting that the penguin enclosure is outside and exposed to the elements, so if you do book the experience then make sure you’re dressed appropriately.

When we first arrived at the Oceanarium in the morning, we told the staff at the front desk that we were there for the penguin experience and they gave us a map and explained when and where to go when it was time for the experience. We were an hour early so we looked around at the other fish and animals whilst we waited. We’ve been to the Oceanarium quite a few times before so knew what to expect and so an hour was a good amount of time for us to have a look around the whole aquarium and then get back to the Penguin enclosure.

At the enclosure, we were met by the penguin keeper who took us through a door to the penguin keeper room. He introduced us to the penguins and told us about their different personalities and quirks, it was so interesting learning about how different each penguin was. He also discussed the variety of penguin types throughout the world and how their lifestyles differ depending on if they’re in captivity or the wild. Then he explained to us how their diet worked, what we were feeding them and how to feed them, and then let us ask questions. My boyfriend loved that he could ask the keeper questions as he could really get to know the penguins.

Once everything had been fully explained and we had all our questions answered, we disinfected our shoes in bleach so as not to spread diseases to the penguins. Then we finally went out to feed the penguins. Whilst we had been in the backstage area quite a crowd had gathered around the enclosure to watch the penguins being fed which was a bit nerve-wracking. However, once we got onto the penguin beach and the penguins started walking towards us, we completely forgot that people were watching us and all our attention was on the penguins. We gave them little fish that had to be held a certain way so that the penguins didn’t choke on them. The majority of the penguins were calm and took their time being fed but there was a couple that were impatient and accidentally scratched us with their beaks. The keeper explained that they didn’t mean to scratch us, they just wanted to get fed before the others which we found quite funny. We had been given big buckets of raw fish and so the experience lasted quite a while. It was amazing being so close to penguins and being able to feed them by hand. It is definitely one of my best memories of 2019. If you’re thinking of doing a penguin feeding experience, or any animal experience, then I highly recommend that you book one as it was fantastic!

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Life · University

The Truth About Being a University Graduate

I finished my university degree back in May and it is now September. I haven’t actually “graduated” from university yet (my ceremony is in October), but I am essentially a graduate. I’ve noticed that although going to university and starting that exciting chapter of your life is always talked about, nobody talks about what it is like when you finish uni.

Everybody has a different experience when they finish university. Some people stay on and do Master’s degrees or PGCE’s to become teachers, some people manage to find graduate schemes or graduate jobs, some manage to find jobs relatively soon after finishing, and some end up struggling to find work, like me. The truth is that since finishing my course, I’ve struggled to find jobs. Of course, there are jobs out there and I do have a weekend retail job, but it is not enough. When you finish uni, there are often expectations placed on you about the career you’ll have. I get asked so much at work about how if I’ve just finished uni then why am I working as a retail assistant. I know if you go to uni then you’re expected to not work in retail, I expected that too. However, I’ve worked in retail before and as a graduate with no other experience, this has been the job sector that has offered me the most jobs. I have applied for jobs elsewhere, mainly office jobs, and so far I haven’t even been offered any interviews.

I guess it is also important to take into account that I am learning to drive and so, for now, I have to rely on public transport to be able to get to jobs and so am only able to apply to about a quarter of the jobs in my area. However, applying to jobs and never hearing back can be so demotiviating and it just feels like I’m in an endless cycle of applying for jobs only to never hear back. I miss the safety of university, where all I had to worru about was assignments, grades, friends and lectures. Being a graduate is a much different experience to anything I’ve gone through before and honestly it brings with it a lot of anxiety and in general is not great for mental health. I know that I am not the only person who feels like this and experiences this. If you’re going through a similar situation then I hope that you manage to find a job that you enjoy soon and that things get better.

Announcements · Life

We Got a Rabbit!

This post is something you probably would not expect from me but my boyfriend, Simon, and I have a pet rabbit! We’d spent ages talking about getting a rabbit in the future once we’ve got a place of our own but a few months ago Simon fell in love with a rabbit called Spike who was up for adoption from an animal rescue centre. He then ended up adopting Spike and taking him home to his parents’ house. He now lives with Simon and his parents at their house but he has insisted that he is also mine so we now have a rabbit, albeit a lot sooner than expected.

As he was already called Spike it felt wrong to change his name, however, we aren’t really a fan of his name and wanted to change it to Oreo. However, we came to the decision to call him Spike-Oreo so that he has both his original name and a name that we actually like. We think that he was called Spike because when he was a baby he was in a fight with another rabbit and ended up needing stitches on his leg and so he had a spiky personality. I must admit that this did worry me when we first got him but we have since learned that he is lovely and even a little bit cheeky, but is definitely not violent or vicious. He is only 6 months old at the moment so he is still learning and so he can bite a bit at times but he is learning not to and has such a sweet personality.

He is currently an indoor rabbit and so is always spoiled with attention and free roam time in the lounge. He has so many toys but his absolute favourite thing to do is to play with and bite cardboard. If you give him a cardboard box he will love you forever. He also loves his treats and as soon as he hears the rustle of the treat bag he will zoom over to you for treats. He is adorable!

We know that rabbits are sociable creatures and so we try to spend as much time as possible for him and once we have got our own place we plan to get him a bunny roommate so that he has another rabbit to be friends with. If you want to see him or keep up to date with him then we have also made him an Instagram page @Spike_the_Bun.

Wrap Ups

July Wrap Up

It’s the beginning of August (well maybe not anymore), and so I thought I would share my July Wrap Up! I didn’t actually read much in July, I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump and so I only finished three books. However, I only started one book in July and the other two I started reading in May/June.

 

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson.

You may have heard of Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Winterson. Well, this is the truth behind that story and what Jeanette’s life was actually like. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, I guess you could call it, as then it would spoil Oranges if you have not read it yet. However, a quick description of this is that it is a memoir about Jeanette growing up as a lesbian in a strict Christian family who adopted her and did not seem to want her. The writing was fantastic and it immediately drew me in. I often find that with non-fiction it takes me a while to get used to the writing style, however, this was written as if it could have been fiction although it obviously is not fictional. If you have read Oranges and enjoyed it then you should definitely read this to find out the truth behind it. I quite enjoyed Oranges, but I absolutely fell in love with this book, which I guess is kind of odd as it is what actually happened to Jeanette. It just felt more real and raw and relatable and Jeanette has such a way with words that she can perfectly describe feelings and situations in ways that I wish I could. Overall I gave this book 5/5 stars and it is my favourite book I’ve read this year.

 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth.

This is a YA LGBT contemporary fiction book set in the USA in the 1990s. This is about Cameron Post and her experience of growing up in a conservative Christian family whilst discovering her sexuality and realising she is a lesbian. The book starts when Cameron is 12 years old and discovers she likes girls after kissing her friend. Her parents then die and she is forced to live with her grandmother and her aunt. As Cameron gets older she has more homosexual experiences and has to hide her sexuality from her aunt and grandmother. After more events happen, Cameron is sent to a conversion camp. I will say now that there should be trigger warnings for homophobia, abuse, suicide and self-harm. I was not a massive fan of the writing style of this book, I found it quite slow and just did not get on with Danforth’s writing style. I also found the book, in general, to be quite slow and at times found myself getting bored. I also did not really fall in love with any of the characters and was not a massive fan of the plot. That being said, I thought it was a good representation of growing up LGBT+ in a conservative place and think that it is still an important story to read. I gave it 3/5 stars out of 5 as although I did not love it, I still appreciate that it is an important topic to read/write about and that there are some really good elements of the book.

 

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’ Neill

This is a YA feminist retelling/reimagining of The Little Mermaid. I was expecting to love this book but instead, I was a bit disappointed. I won’t tell you the plot of the book as it is a retelling of The Little Mermaid with a modern feminist spin on it. I’ve only read one other book by O’Neill but I’ve found that her writing is addicting and once you’ve started you don’t want to put the book down. However, I was not a fan of the feminism in this book as it was not inclusive and was very male vs female. All of the men, bar one who was not featured very much, were awful and had no redeeming qualities. They were shallow, sexist, creepy, sex-obsessed and power-obsessed men. I hate this as it follows the typical trope of women vs men, and paints all men as horrific. There were also a lot of uncomfortable scenes. I know they were supposed to be uncomfortable to portray how the women would have felt, but I feel like at times a line was being crossed and it made me want to put the book down. Trigger warnings for this book include sexism, abuse, rape, suicide, homophobia. Overall I gave this book 3/5 stars out of 5 as I both liked and disliked it.

Life

Where I’ve Been

Hi!

I’ve been absent from this blog for a while and so I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up to recently. Firstly, I finished university in May and moved back home to my mum’s house. It feels so crazy and unbelievable that I’ve actually finished my undergraduate degree, it was a wonderful experience and I’m sad to leave it behind.

When I got home I started applying for summer jobs, (and after applying for a few) and I managed to get a job in a department store. It isn’t a graduate job and it isn’t part-time or full-time but I enjoy it and it is something. I’m still looking for graduate jobs, it is hard and the process can be really deflating at times but I’m trying to remain optimistic. I have also started driving lessons and I passed my theory test at the beginning of July. I started off dreading my driving lessons and was not a massive fan of my driving instructor as they seemed to get irritated easily and made me want to cry quite a few times. However, I’ve recently changed driving instructors. My new instructor is lovely and I actually look forward to my lessons now and feel much more confident in my driving. I’m hoping to pass my test by November and hope that once I have passed my test it will be easier to get a graduate job.

I’ve also just been enjoying my summer and am treating this summer as my last ever break. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my boyfriend and friends. I’ve also just been relaxing and taking a break as although I had holidays at university, I put so much pressure on myself due to academia that I haven’t really had a proper break in a 3 years. I know that I’m in a very privileged position to be able to do this and I do not take it for granted at all. I also haven’t actually read many books since I finished university as I had to do so much academic reading at university that I wanted a bit of a break. Unfortunately, this has meant that my booktube, bookstagram and this blog have been a bit neglected but I’m started to read again and will be making more book-related content.

Life · University

Moving Out of University

Today I packed up my belongings and moved out of my university accommodation. It feels surreal and I can’t quite believe it but I am no longer a student and am no longer living in my university city.

It feels odd to be back living my parents and it feels like I’ve been stripped of the independence I gained whilst living in my university city. I can’t do what I want and have to abide by the rules of my family. Taking down my photographs from my bedroom wall and putting them into a box to bring home is the thing that made it feel even more real. Living with friends at university was a great experience and although it obviously had pros and cons, I will never forget it.

My next step is to try and find a job and save up so that I can move out. As somebody that finds comfort in having a plan, it feels very odd that I have not planned what my next step will be in terms of employment. I’m just keeping an eye out for jobs that appeal to me and hope that I will be successful. If you’ve also just finished university and are feeling lost and trying to look for jobs then know you aren’t alone and I hope that everything works out!

Life · University

I’ve finished University!

Hi, long time no see!

I’m so sorry that I’ve neglected this blog, and my booktube channel, for quite a while. I don’t have any excuse other than I’ve been in my final year of university and had so much work to do. However, I have now finished my exams and have finished university!

My time at university has gone so quickly and I can’t quite believe that I have actually finished my time here. It’s been a great experience and I’ve loved every second of it, even the stressful ones! I had my last exam on Monday afternoon and since then I’ve just been relaxing and have also booked my first driving lesson for next week.

This is just a little post to say that I’m back and that I look forward to getting back into the swing of things! Stay tuned!