The COVID Impact: New Modes of Presenting Your PhD Research During a Pandemic

Man in over-ear headphones on laptop

|By Meg Ison, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth|

In this blog post I will discuss the impact of the pandemic on the PhD experience, and focus on how and why online conferences and blog posts have become new and extremely effective ways for PhD students to disseminate their research.

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Classified Before the Fall of Saigon: Exploring U.S. Declassified Documents Online

Classified Before the Fall of Saigon

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

On August 30, 2021, the United States Armed Forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan. History rarely repeats, but it does rhyme. The fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the following airlift of allied personnel out of the city reminded me keenly of the Fall of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, to the North Vietnamese on May 30, 1975. The parallels between the ends of these armed conflicts seem endless and the images of desperate Afghans crowding the Kabul airport bring with them a sense of déjà vu. In this blog post I will showcase the usefulness of Gale’s US Declassified Documents Online archive and examine the trail of breadcrumbs left by declassified US documents dated shortly before the Fall of Saigon, during the Vietnam War. What was the US government focusing on? Who was President Gerald Ford writing to? What kinds of reports and memos were landing on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s desk?

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Free Speech in a “Post-Truth” Era – The Value of Digital Archives

| By James Carney, Gale Ambassador at King’s College London |

As a literature student, I have studied the power of language for myriad and varying purposes in a range of historical contexts. My studies have exposed me to the fact that language is inherently political – the way in which we construct verbal expression can reflect and compound the powerful forces that command us like hierarchies, social structures, identities or even biases. An example that comes to mind is the profound racism in the name given to South America’s most notable sea – the Caribbean. Popularised by the cartographer Thomas Jeffreys, the word finds roots in the Spanish word for cannibal (carib), and is a name which conquistadors enforced on the natives of this region. The political nature of language is clear from this example – in line with the constructed ‘civilising’ mission of imperialism, language came to reflect prevailing perceptions of the Spanish conquerors in relation to their (problematically) ‘savage’ subjects.

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The Gale Primary Sources Learning Centers – A Student’s Perspective

Gale Learning Center

│By Ellie Brosnan, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

Primary sources are central to a range of academic disciplines but particularly History where the need to engage independently and deeply with archival material grows as students progress through their course. I remember well the way we were introduced to History and the concept of primary sources at school, making our own mocked-up documents. Emulating figures from the past, we wrote on tea-stained paper, imagining how past individuals might have felt about the events of their time. This was great fun but, as one progresses through the education system and moves on to analysing real historical documents, our engagement with History must become increasingly sophisticated and, by university-level, the quantity and complexity of the primary sources with which we must engage can become overwhelming. Plus, the breadth of questions we must ask – who wrote the source and why – on top of the broader context in which it was created, is a lot to recognise, understand and consider. This is where Gale’s Learning Centers come in! Released in October 2021, they help students get to grips with a primary source archive. Currently included in twelve of the Gale Primary Sources archives, they will later be available in all Gale archives.

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Pride and Protest: LGBT+ Disability Activism in the US, 1985-1995

Disabled activists

│By Mo Clarke, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

Disabled. A word many find uncomfortable. Indeed, it seems much of society still assumes that to be disabled is to be broken, but while it is true that many people with disabilities experience ableism and insufficient support, resources and facilities, activists have long fought against the presumption that to be disabled is inherently bad. Rather than a curse or insult, their disability is a part of their identity and a source of pride. Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender reveal that disability rights have also been a focus for another minority group in the United States: the LGBT+ community. In the 1980s and 1990s LGBT+ activists made great strides towards improving the lives of disabled people.

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African Hairstyles – The “Dreaded” Colonial Legacy

Black person looking at book shelf

│By Nonkoliso Andiswa Tshiki, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa│

My primary school had very strict rules regulating how the African students’ hair should look when we were at school. Hair extensions, for instance, were prohibited. Students were only allowed to have natural hair hairstyles which were deemed neat, such as cornrows. We were particularly prohibited from having dreadlocks; disobeying this rule resulted in expulsion. I am aware that many other school authorities in the rural areas in South Africa forced students to cut their hair so short throughout their schooling career they were effectively bald.

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Unearthing and Decolonising the Rasta Voice

Rasta Voice

| By Robert Youngs do Patrocinio, Gale Ambassador at University College London|

This post will focus on raising awareness of the Rasta struggle to practise their religion, principally using Gale’s Archives Unbound collections, an extensive database of primary sources included in Gale Reference Complete that many university students such as myself can utilise when conducting all types of research. It currently comprises 382 collections (more are added each year), and includes a compelling collection titled: Rastafari Ephemeral Publications from the Written Rastafari Archives Project. The Rastafarianism movement can be traced back to its beginnings in 1930s Jamaica and its strong connections with the coronation of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (1930) who remains a principal figure in the Rastafarian religion. As the political cartoon below illustrates, the Rasta faith is rooted in an ideology which believes that Africa is paramount to black individuals obtaining freedom and escaping their physical, spiritual, emotional and historical oppression and struggle against slavery. As a religious belief system, I think that it is important to become mindful of Rastafari traditions and invest time in accessing elements of this culture, due to the significance of its relationship to the black experience and post-slavery trauma.

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How to Survive in the Jungle of Academia? Top Tips for University Freshers

Student on university campus

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

Starting your first week of university can undoubtedly feel daunting. When I think back to my first week at the University of Helsinki, I remember feeling overwhelmed by this strange new world I had thrown myself into. For many students, starting university means starting an entirely new chapter in their lives. Like me, you might not know anyone from your faculty, and you might be living in a completely unfamiliar city as well. University also requires an entirely different level of independence than your previous scholarly pursuits; there’s no one looking over your shoulder to make sure your work gets done on time – you and you alone are responsible for your studies. In this blog post I will detail a few tips and tricks I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my university studies and provide some general advice on how to make the most of university!

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PhDing in a Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19 on Research and Teaching

Observations concerning the Plague

│By Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

As an archival scholar trying to write a PhD thesis in a pandemic, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on my working life. The closure of archives, museums, and libraries during the lockdowns prevented me and many others from accessing essential primary resources needed for doctoral research. And without physical access to exciting objects, manuscripts, and printed items to help bring texts alive, inspiring undergraduate students whilst teaching them over Microsoft Teams became equally difficult. With COVID cases once again climbing, we are far from being free of the pandemic. But how can we try to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education and research? And what will the long-term impacts of the pandemic be?

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Disentangling Fact from Opinion in Academic Articles

Magnifying glass over laptop keyboard

│By Rhiannon Green, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham│

As a university student myself, I know first-hand how important it is to read critically when writing academic essays. One reason we must read critically is because academic articles are constructed from both fact and opinion, and it is necessary to differentiate between the two when using them in our own arguments. This is especially true for articles within the discipline of History which are frequently written with more than one agenda in mind; whilst they do seek to inform the reader on a particular historical topic, and include historical information to this end, it is often used in a way that presents and defends the author’s own opinion on that particular topic. Debates around women’s rights, for example, have seen academics use various arguments and angles over the years, and whilst there are undoubtedly “facts” which are relevant to the debate, historians have often used the facts to present their own angle or argument. In this blog post I will use the resources in Gale OneFile –  a component of Gale Reference Complete and home to a vast array of academic articles – to demonstrate the importance of disentangling fact and opinion in academia.

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