Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Stop...Essay Time!!!

OK so it’s not strictly essay time. We do have a few weeks left yet but if I’ve learnt anything from A200 it was to just write the damn essay while the relevant chapters are in my head. Otherwise, I’d find myself reading all about what I needed to know, making all the right noises, then moving on to the next chapter, and the next. And then it came to the real essay week, or ‘reading week’ or whatever it’s called, and I’d have to go back and re-read everything related to the question
So this time, I’m doing it this way and we’ll see how I go.
I’m not allowed to post any TMA questions or answers or anything like that. (Like I have the answers…) Basically, this is the first TMA, and it’s split into Part A and Part B, only 500 words each, so shouldn’t be too much trouble. I’M KIDDING. It’s going to be a nightmare – how can anyone write an essay in 500 words??? I’ll be honest, I’ve scrawled 700 words for each already, and that’s just my first draft. The hardest thing about these little ones is making them smaller, and obviously worrying if the 500 words you did pick to leave in were the right ones. I wrote what I have while I was on the train so obviously I’ll need some real quiet time to edit and sort out my bibliography and stuff.  This is how I write my drafts, in a round-about nonsensical way….
The history of medicine is a fascinating subject to study because INSERT WHY HERE. This is supported by the fact that INSERT EVIDENCE HERE. It is a well known fact that historians of medicine wear big knickers REFERENCE THIS.
So I leave myself a lot to do, I really do. But in all honesty, how am I meant to write a full clean beautiful essay sat or stood on a rammed train in rush hour? (I travel about 2 hours to Manchester every day there and back.)
I tried to be a stealth picture-taker on the actual train but chickened out last minute. Must try harder.
How do you do it? I’m sure everyone does it differently. I basically aim to read the set book chapter on the Monday morning. I do not do the exercises as I can only carry one book at a time, and I’m travelling 4 hours on a train a day to work with my dinner and purse and everything – my bag weighs a tonne. So I read that. Then the next day I take the source book, and I read a few sources. If I’ve been organised, I’ll mark down which ones I need to read, if not I just read the next ones as I go. I always make notes in the margins, and always highlight and underline. I break the spines of the books and generally ruin them. Look at poor Porter:

Battered and bruised. Someone call a doctor. A proper one, not a quack or a charlatan...

Then the next day, I’ll take any other set books I need, like Porter or a print-out of a source or whatever is recommended. My husband has very kindly transferred the radio programmes off the website onto my MP3 player, so I listen to those on the train as well. (I find them a bit erm…jarg.) At night I do the CD Rom exercises, I find that doesn’t take me very long – usually because of this
These distract me!

Or maybe even because of this:

Can't believe they killed off poor Sybil

I suppose I spend about 5 hours a week studying. I’ll then spend more time when it’s essay-writing time. I always ALWAYS read with the essay questions in my mind. I couldn’t do it any other way, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed, I’m balancing work, kids, pregnancy, university, managing the home. I don’t have time to read for leisure. Hang on, that’s a massive lie, I took Educating Rita Random Link - I got mine for under £2 by Willy Russel on the train with me last week and read it in an hour or so, loved it. Really want to go and see the play, but that’s a slight digression.
Note Taking
I have had this real issue with note taking. I bought myself loads of gorgeous post-its and note books and snazzy pens. My aim was to take notes on each chapter, and then when it came to revision I wouldn’t have to re-read the whole thing, I would just have to re-read my notes and make some diagrams or whatever. But as I quickly found out, the reason I didn’t take notes with A200 was because I actually enjoy reading the material. I don’t want to stop every five minutes to write down names and dates – I was just enjoying that paragraph thank you very much. And also, there is the practical side of things – how on earth can I take notes – I bring your attention to this once again
That picture again, I clearly must work on my photography skills.

And my note-taking at home is massively impeded by this 

Naughty Alice!


Loop the loop!

And increasingly, this 
Somewhere to rest my books?
So, notes. None. I plan on re-reading the whole of the module again in May, and using the month I have for revision. We’ll have three children by then so I’ll let you know how I get on with that…
The Course
I am enjoying it very much. I wasn’t when I was note taking I’ll be honest. There’s some cracking fellas in it isn’t there? Being a bit of a feminist, the primary sources relating to women in the early modern age, I find fascinating. I am looking forward to moving on, and getting to modern history to be honest, but I’m enjoying this bit not-the-less. The CD Rom could do with a bit of updating if I’m honest, the DVD is a bit old fashioned, but I can cope with that. And if I run out of time I know I can always read the transcript on the train, so the OU are great like that, the written material is excellent.
To be honest, my enjoyment of the course will last for as long as I feel I am understanding and doing well in it. The moment I get a rubbish essay mark my interest will absolutely nose-dive, I’ve always been the same. I either sink or swim I’m afraid, so here’s hoping for a good one.
Good luck if you are doing A218 this time around. Let me know how you’re getting on, be nice to swap tips and get in touch!


  1. Hi there, your blog is great and you are on exactly the same path as me! Doing an honours degree (History) and second baby on the way, but don't work...you are such a hero! Anyway am dickering as to whether doing TWO 60 credit modules A200 & A218 at the same time with a toddler/newborn/husband/house etc etc is madness (?!) or best to get it over with? Whats the workload like on both of these? I know theres a lot of reading etc etc, your advice would be greatly appreciated as you seem to have it covered...x keep writing!

  2. WifeMumStudentBum13 July 2014 at 14:46

    Thanks for your kind words Lavinia - so great to read about other people doing similar to me! My gut instinct for advice on whether to double up is DON'T DO IT. :) But don't let this put you off - I know of quite a few people who do this, however, with kids and the house and everything - I would advise against it. I found A200 a lot harder than A218, despite getting better marks in that module. There is a LOT to take in for A200 (some people say this this module is more like a Level 3 and I would tend to agree with this)- and although A218 was slightly less reading it is still a very challenging course. Then of course you would have two exams at the end of the modules - my brain can only hold so much information, so I wouldn't do this. I think I would have only been able to juggle two Level 1 modules, and even then I think I wouldn't have absorbed the same amount of information. Everyone is different of course, but before signing up to both I would read around - ask other students, join the Facebook groups and ask for more opinions before you decide. You could even give Learning Support at the OU a call and talk it through with them - they are really helpful and friendly. Six years seems like a long time and often I wondered whether I could double up my modules but as quickly as the thought entered my head, it left - I wouldn't have been able to manage the two. Good luck with what you decide, let me know how you get on! x

  3. I think you are quite right actually and want to enjoy a bit of baby too, they're only teeny for so long! I'm on bed rest at mo so managed to get hold of block 1 to read and plan to read all the sources (as you did!) and set books before the module starts...I've tended to avoid the FB and forum interaction as I find it a bit crazy intense at times, lots of discussion versus doing the work. Only my opinion tho! I find like you tho that I only manage 5/6 hours a week but it seems to suffice...any other tips for a200? I've read through most of your posts already but I'm interested to hear your thoughts, I think it's great what you do and your words have certainly spurred me on, you've far more on your plate! Hope you get that first, you deserve it!!! X

  4. WifeMumStudentBum14 July 2014 at 07:53

    Really I think I used up all my tips in the A200 overview that I did. Test yourself on your facts, make sure you know your facts, but make sure you know your theories as well. I'd say that the theories are more important than the facts in a way, so if you know all about the Reformation or the Industrial Revolution - great, but learn a few different theories around it, memorise the historians. Try and pick conflicting ideas and pitch them against each other - which one do you side with? Why? Just have these questions in your mind as you are reading through. Think about the similarities and differences across the themes and across time, so for example, why are beliefs and ideologies so important - in all of these events - I'm not saying you need to know it all (I'm sure I don't remember everything.) But thinking it over in your brain enables you to utilise the skills that you are picking up as an historian. History is as much about the historiography as it is about the key facts - the key facts never change, but viewpoints do - why is this? Outside influences - history does not take place in a vaccuum. Always question your sources no matter how reliable you think they are. x


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