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History > Academic literacy

A brief overview to prospectus students:

  • ‘The degree courses foster a wide range of transferable skills including independent study, research, analytical communication, IT, group-work and language skills.’

Computing for Historians:

  • First Year optional skills component
  • provides training in how to use IT and spreadsheet skills to enhance your historical research’
  • In a section titled, ‘Who is it for’ – ‘It is open to ALL first year students on the Making of the Modern World core module. It will help those who possess little or no IT experience to gain an understanding of key IT functions used at Warwick: including skills that are transferrable following your degree.’
  • ‘It is also designed to encourage those further into their undergraduate studies, or starting their postgraduate studies, to expand upon existing knowledge by learning more about IT skills specifically in terms of historical research.’

Analysis of Core Modules

Aims and Objectives:

In the ‘expected learning outcomes’ for the first year core module Making of the Modern World, the following skills are claimed-

a) the further development of study, writing and communication skills b) to provide the opportunity, through writing essays, to develop in more depth basic writing skills and to use some of the historical sources and skills outlined above. c) developing critical and analytical skills based on

  • introducing students to a wide variety of approaches to the study of History
  • conveying basic historical knowledge of the modern world since the mid-eighteenth century
  • utilising interdisciplinary perspectives to deepen historical understanding
  • providing students with the opportunity to evaluate critically a range of primary sources including official documents, statistics, memoirs, oral history, film, music, painting, architecture, radio, television, museums, memorials, monuments
  • examining a wide range of secondary sources and secondary interpretations of the modern world.

d) To enable students to produce written and verbal analyses based on the above.The learning outcomes of this core module show a mixture of skills both confined to the discipline and more general skills such as written and verbal analysis, communication skills etc. Its aim to enable students to ‘develop basic writing skills’ will be judged from the discipline’s idea of writing skills or a generic idea of writing skills. They present ‘writing skills’ as a generic skill, that there is an objective ‘good writing style’. The Lea report however, had shown that this was not always the case; each discipline had its own idea of what constitutes a good piece of writing. Moreover, although this module aims to enable students to develop good writing and verbal analysis, there is no further guidance for students on how exactly they will do this- how to write well for example. It does say through writing essays. However, there is no further explanation to what a good essay is. The department may argue that this guidance may be found in the classification criteria found at -

But many students may still want to know what a well structured, organized, coherent essay looks like for example.

This point needs to be clarified, because it seems quite an ambiguous academic literacy that is not only presented as a generic skill, but also appears continuously in other modules and core modules the following year. The Second year core module states: ‘to have further developed their study, writing and communication skills’

In both core modules there are skills related pages. For MMW-

Skills and making of the Modern World:

However although once again it is stated that students will develop both ‘specifically historic and general transferable skills’, once again only specific information is given.

The skills claimed to be developed through the module are

  • write essays on historical topics
  • use information sources, both specific to the discipline and general sources and works of reference
  • learn how to observe scholarly protocols: e.g. how to footnote correctly; how to draw up a bibliography
  • access and utilise information on the Internet
  • develop IT skills with particular reference to historical study
  • acquire or improve on your knowledge of a foreign language, and to begin to use it for historical purposes (Single Honours only)

In many of these cases, a general skill such as language or IT skills are being utilized for historical purposes.

Further information is given on ‘skills reading’ which is books that focus on historical skills and study and then more technical issues with writing involving plagiarism, footnoting, presentation etc. Nowhere does it give advice about how to write a good essay for example.

However in second year, 5 skills are outlined in the core module European World. These are displayed in a list, on the side of the homepage for the module. They are all links and have further information on each of the skills.

Interpreting, Languages, Reviewing, Warwick Skills, Writing.

  • The Warwick skills certificate enables students to develop general skills. Whilst the other four skills they list that students will develop in this module, could be applied to other circumstances, but are clearly developed trough the study of history:
    The Writing Skills- provides a link to In a link on this page ‘approaches to extended essay writing’ students are given guidance for the first time about how to write an extended essay. It is also interesting to note that on this page, that the history department has displayed essay writing guidance from both the Italian and History of Arts pages. Although this shows the department is not inward looking and readily uses resources from neighboring departments, equally it may give confusing advice to its students. The skills or academic literacies that the department discusses have all be referred to within the framework of ‘history’. Although they describe some of the skills as transferable, it is understood that the skills students will develop will be acquired through historical study. This advice from the Italian and History of Art departments may be useless for students. /undergraduate/modules/hi323/aims

In the final year, there is no further comprehensive guidance or explanations to the skills students are supposed to develop. The third year core module, outlines some skills students develop, yet they are just more development form skills that developed in the first and second years. Once again the description of the skills follows the pattern of being developed within the framework of historical analysis and therefore are specific to the discipline of history, yet some skills are also generic such as ‘critical analysis’ because they may be transferred to different disciplines and uses.