The Potential and Importance of Interdisciplinarity in Academia

Interdisciplinarity

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

During my undergraduate studies, I read History and French. When I began looking for research funding for a PhD, I realised that so much research in the academy at the moment is interdisciplinary. Indeed, it has become somewhat of a ‘buzzword’. I combined research methods from the Humanities and Social Sciences in my research proposal to win a place with the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership, funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council. I completed their MSc in Social Research methods at the University of Southampton, and now I am on the interdisciplinary pathway for my PhD. I did not fully appreciate the potential and importance of interdisciplinarity until I started studying for my PhD with a cross-departmental supervisory team. As a result, I have a strong interest and belief in the power of interdisciplinary study. In this blog post I share some of my insights about this approach to research. 

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The Importance of Archives – Preserving the Past and Contextualising the Present

Finnish National Archives

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

Historian Jo Tollebeek once wrote that increasing “scientification” of history at the end of the nineteenth century produced a new kind of archival-fantasy: a belief that all relevant documents from the past could be gathered. Nowadays it is vital to comprehend and take into account the diversity of an archive. Every archive is bound not only to its history and context but also the demands of the current era. At the end of the day, an archive is in of itself an intellectual problem and a cultural artefact to be studied. Historian Natalie Zemon Davis has also made the important point that, even though the world of archives has encountered many changes, the most important aspect is still the same: when you read documents in an archive you have a physical link to the past in front of you that connects you to people long dead and strengthens the researchers attempt to tell about the past as honestly as possible.1

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How Gale Digital Scholar Lab Could Support Alternative Research Methods

Online working

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

Academic research has evolved drastically in recent years, with new technology revolutionising research methods. One impact is the growing influence of quantitative analysis within the Humanities and Social Sciences. This has impacted research and student curriculums. I am currently a third-year student at University College London (UCL) studying History and Politics of the Americas with languages. Last year, my course included a ‘Research Methods’ module. The quantitative section of this module introduced me to the value of digital humanities (DH), particularly R-Studio which we took time to practise and utilise in our university projects. My institute’s different DH workshops were useful in that they enhanced the module and enriched my course as it presented a new approach to social scientific research. This challenged me to further question the complexities of QUAN vs QUAL/mixed-methods research, and to what extent they are mutually inclusive/exclusive in different research contexts.

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Exploring Receptions of Classical Literature with The Times Digital Archive and Gale Digital Scholar Lab

Acropolis Athens

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

Classical Reception Studies refers to the interpretation, imaginings and reimaginings of the classical world since antiquity. It can illuminate the enduring pertinence of the ancient world throughout history – particularly in the cultural realm where its influence is most pronounced. Gale digital archives and, more recently, the Gale Digital Scholar Lab can markedly benefit any undertaking into this area by exposing the nature of classical reception across the ages, but also the discourses that surrounded and emerged from various interpretations of the ancient past.

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Top 10 Tips for Teaching with Primary Sources

Portrait of the author as a young lecturer teaching eighteenth-century literary culture to students at the Tate through the work of William Hogarth.

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

Academics know that there is nothing more joyful or frustrating than working with primary sources. Imparting the ability to locate, appreciate, understand, and interrogate primary materials onto students is central to our roles as educators. But achieving this in the classroom isn’t always easy – especially when you’re also trying to teach through a pandemic! Drawing on my own experience of teaching in higher education, this blog post offers ten top tips on how to teach with primary sources.

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L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France – A Student’s Perspective

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

Gale’s rich and exciting archive collection L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque national de France, which is part of Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender series, holds an impressive assortment of approximately 2400 printed works, published mostly in French. Enfer quite literally translates into English as “hell”. The name is remarkable and has certainly contributed to the collection’s historical infamy. When it was opened, the collection was classified and unavailable to the wider public due to its obscene and outlandish nature, and the perceived vulgarity of the content – but perhaps unsurprisingly this only roused interest and curiosity in the collection! Students of today will undoubtedly be equally curious to explore this historically “out of bounds” collection.

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Moving from Undergraduate to Postgraduate Study: Using Digital Archives More Proficiently

From Undergraduate to postgraduate

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

Moving from undergraduate to postgraduate study can be challenging. Students are expected to undertake more original research at postgraduate level, contributing to ideas within their field rather than simply explaining them. For history students like myself, engaging with primary sources is particularly important.

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How Gale’s Archives Supported My Thesis on the Politics of Contraception in South Africa, 1970s–80s

Contraception plus archive article images

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

Having to complete my Honours research paper in the era of Covid-19 left myself and many other students feeling stranded so far as to how to obtain valuable and relevant academic resources. Access to digitised resources quickly became vital to one’s success in academia and I am happy that I came across Gale Primary Sources when I did because they contributed greatly to the completion of my thesis. This blog will show how I utilised Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender, and Women’s Studies Archive collections to explore my thesis topic – the Media and Technologies of Contraception in South Africa between the 1970s and 1980s.

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Lesser-Known Narratives and Everyday Histories in Archives Unbound

Archives Unbound screenshot

│By Ellie Brosnan, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

Studying archival material has been one of the most fascinating aspects of my History degree so far. Local libraries often host regional collections which provide a fascinating avenue into engaging with local histories, and being a student at Durham University in the north-east of England has allowed me to engage with primary sources from this area. During my time at university, for example, I have been lucky enough to see letters from servants at Durham castle from centuries past. Archives hold all manner of sources and uncovering new information is always rewarding, both physically and digitally. Delving into Gale’s online resources has also illustrated how digital archives can offer as much, if not more, compared to their traditional physical counterparts.

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Tracing the Legacy of William Blake with British Literary Manuscripts Online

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

William Blake is widely considered one of Britain’s finest artists of all time. From painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to writers of the Irish Literary Revival, Blake’s influence permeates the artistic tradition. Therefore, it can come as a surprise to many that Blake’s work passed largely unrecognised during his lifetime. It is only posthumously that his legacy as we know it today has developed. This can be extensively explored using Gale’s British Literary Manuscripts Online: c. 1660-1900 archive.

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