The history research project
The research project was one of my core modules this year (I’m a second year, single honours history student). It’s the most open module that I’ve done so far: I could choose pretty much any primary source that I thought was interesting, research it, and write an essay based around it.
Although it sounds simple, I have to admit that before I started the module I was dreading it slightly. It just seemed like a huge task: normally I’ll have a few assignments per module, each with a different weighting towards the overall module mark. In contrast, the research project module was, by nature, based around a single essay.
Once I’d started the seminars, I realised that the research project wasn’t like the other modules I’ve done so far. To me, this module felt a lot less like I was analysing a single concept or event (as I usually would in an assignment), and a lot more like an application of all the skills I’ve learnt so far at university. I ended up choosing a single picture source as the base for my essay, and I actually came to enjoy focusing on something so specific.
The beauty of the research project is that you can choose to study pretty much whatever you want, as long as there’s scope for an essay. I took that as an opportunity to look into something that I was interested in but hadn’t yet studied at university, which really helped me to narrow down the range of topic areas that I wanted to do for my project (in case you’re interested, I settled on the history of medicine, specifically nineteenth-century public health).
As I was researching something that I wasn’t hugely knowledgeable about beforehand, I decided to stick to a time period and place that I was already familiar with so that I wasn’t out of my depth when doing my research. (This absolutely isn’t the only way to approach the research project – it’s just what I thought would work best for me.)
The module was very different to everything else I’ve done at university so far, mainly because it was so independent. I ended up enjoying the module a lot more than I thought I would: the independence meant that when I handed it in, it felt more satisfying.
Hopefully that gives a bit of an insight into the module! I definitely found it helpful, and it’s given me some food for thought for my dissertation next year!