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HI290 Assessment and Essays


Seminar Contribution

10% of your overall mark for the module will be determined by your contribution to seminars over the course of the year. Seminar contribution is not a measure of how much you speak in seminars, but is intended to assess your overall performance. When assessing your seminar contribution your seminar tutor will thefeore take into account the following factors:

  • Oral contribution: not a measure of how much you say, but the quality of your contributions, taking into account clarity of expression, relevance, respectfulness and inclusivity, contributions that extend the discussion. Remember, asking pertinent and probing questions also counts here!
  • Knowledge and understanding: encompassing evidence of preparation, engagement and understanding of the relevant material.
  • Analysis: evidence that you can think about and evaluate, interpret and interrogate what you read and what is discussed, rather than simply repeating material from the lectures and readings; backing up statements, arguments and opinions with relevant evidence.
  • Evidence of the ability to understand and engage with different historiographical, theoretical and methodological approaches.

Your seminar contribution will be assessed on the basis of obseravtion by your seminar tutor and the completion of a self-assessment form in which you will be asked to reflect upon your own performance throughout the year. You will receive some interim feedback part-way through the module to give you a sense of how you are doing and how you might improve your overall performance in the rest of the year.

If you have a medical condition or other good reason why you think that assessment through seminar contribution might be especially difficult for you please speak to your personal tutor about the possibility of arranging an alternative method of assessment.

General Guidelines for Essays

All essays should be typewritten and double-spaced. They must include a separate bibliography page at the end, as well as footnotes citing any sources referred to in the text. Be sure to cite all references: whether you are paraphrasing, using direct quotes, or borrowing ideas, you must note the source. Plagiarism and poor academic practice are serious matters and penalties can be severe. More information about plagiarism, including definitions and advice on how to avoid it, can be found here. If in doubt, speak to your seminar tutor before you submit your essay. There is no standard number of books/chapters/articles that should be read, but as a rule of thumb you should consult around 6 sources of at least chapter or article length for short essays and around 10 sources of at least chapter or article length for long essays. Please take the time to read your work through carefully before handing it in, paying close attention to presentation, typos, spelling mistakes and grammar.

For some good general advice on how to write a good history essay see the following:

If you are unsure what is expected of you, or would like advice on any aspect of essay writing, please just ask your seminar tutor!

Essays that are handed in after the deadline, or that exceed the word limit, will be subject to penalties. The department’s standard penalties for late submission and exceeding word length, as well as the policy on plagiarism can be found here.

All formative and summative work is marked in accordance with the University's 20-point marking scheme. Marking a History essay is a complex and nuanced matter. There is no requirement that a piece of work would have to meet every one of the specified criteria in order to obtain a mark in the relevant class. Equally, when work displays characteristics from more than one class, a judgement must be made of the overall quality. The reason why your essay has been given a particular mark should be clear from the feedback, but if in doubt, please speak to your seminar tutor.

1,500 word Essay, due Week 7, Term 1:

The first summative assessment for the module is a short (1,500 word) primnary source commentary.

Please comment critically on one of the sources below:

Your commentary should follow a standard essay format (have an introduction, argument, conclusion, cite references etc.) but be a much more focused evaluation of a particular source. The aim is not to simply describe what the source (and through it it's author) is saying, but to analyse the content of the source (what it says), the context in which it was written, and its significance (or usefulness) as a historical source (what it can tell us about the general topic - eg. the history of Imperial Germany, or modern German history in general - how useful is it to historians, what are its limitations etc.). Please remember: it is not enough to look at the source in isolation. To provide the best possible answer you will need to do a bit of reading around the subject to find out the background to the source and be able to comment critically on where it stands in relation to the historical literature.

When analysing your chosen source, please consider the 'three C's':

  • Context (When was the source written? By whom? What was their background? What was happening at the time?)
  • Content (What does the source say? Who was it aimed at? Should we take it at face value? Is there anything we can learn by analysing the language used, the way the source is presented, where it was published etc.?)
  • Consequence (Why is this document important as a historical source? What can historians learn from studying it? How does it contribute to our understanding of modern German history?)

3,000 word Essay, due week 8, Term 2:

All students are required to write a 3,000 word essay, which will worth 40% of your total mark for the module.

It is intended that this will be an individual research-based essay so there are no set questions for the 3,000 essay, and you should discuss prospective topics/questions with your seminar tutor as soon as possible in the spring term. It is important that you pick a topic that you find interesting and will enjoy researching. Essay topics should be focused, in-depth explorations of particular events, personalities, debates or themes in modern German history and you will need to be prepared to read widely on the subject, think critically about the topic and evaluate the historiography on it.

Some examples of recent long essay topics for the module can be seen below. These are indicative examples, designed to get you thinking about your own topic. Please do not write your essay on one of these questions.

  • To what extent did the front experience of the First World War shape German notions of masculinity?
  • What can we learn about gender in Weimar Germany from the conflict between feminist campaigners and prostitutes?
  • Were ordinary Germans ‘indifferent’ towards the Holocaust as Ian Kershaw has suggested?
  • Examine the social effects the Soviet rapes upon German women during the occupation of Berlin, 1944-1949.
  • To what extent can the Nuremburg Trials of 1945-9 be seen as examples of ‘victors justice’?
  • To what extent did a policy of denazification contribute to the democratisation of American occupied Germany in the years 1944 to 1950?
  • Was the reunification of Germany the merging of two equal states or the colonization of the East?

2 Hour Exam, to be sat in Term 3

The exam will be scheduled to take place at some point in weeks 4-9 of term 3.

Students are expected to answer two questions in two hours. A selection of past exam papers can be found here.