My Top 10 Tips to Ace Your Dissertation

Man working on laptop outdoors, holding papers, looking like he's achieved something.

│By Emily Priest, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth│

Being a student and working from home in the middle of a pandemic can be hard, and it can be even harder when you have your final dissertation looming. But, despite how challenging things seem, there are a few key things you can do to ease your anxiety and make your work dazzle! Here are ten of my top tips for writing your dissertation whilst studying from home during the pandemic. Tweet us @GaleAmbassadors if they work for you – and share if you have any special dissertation or essay-writing tricks of your own!

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Using Primary Sources in Revision and Exam Preparation

Student sitting on bed studying with books and laptop

│By Ellen Grace Lesser, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

Studying a Humanities or Social Sciences subject might seem almost entirely focused on coursework, essays and, of course, the dissertation, but we are not entirely free from exams. At university level you are not “taught to the test,” meaning exams are more sophisticated than just regurgitating everything you’ve learned that term. You may end up feeling a little lost when revising for your exams, but there is hope! Not only have your lecturers taken every care to prepare you, you might find some helpful resources among online primary sources. Read on to find out more!

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Misanthrope or Friend of Man? Revising the Byronic Hero with Gale Primary Sources

The reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi by Theodoros Vryzakis

By Harry Walker, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham

“I stood among them, but not of them.” This famous quote is from Lord Byron’s poetry and one which formed the basis of the discussion in my final essay at university. The line is taken from his early work, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and has come to epitomise the “Byronic hero’s” attitude towards sociability for posterity, portraying him as a misanthropic, isolated figure. My essay argued that the idea of the “Byronic hero” as a misanthrope was more complex than this quote in isolation would suggest. My essay was naturally, being a literature essay, focused on the manifestation of this idea in his poetry. However, it was useful to support my argument with contextual details about his own social life, seeing as the “Byronic hero” is semi-autobiographical. This is where I found Nineteenth Century Collections Online and Gale Literature: Dictionary of Literary Biography to be instrumental. This blog post shows how I used these great resources to support my argument.

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Coping at College – Research Resources and Mental Health

Stressed student in bedroom

│By Evelyn Moran, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland, Galway│

When I first started university just over three years ago, I had a bit of a cry to myself that first night alone in my room. Part of me wanted to call my mam and say, “I don’t know what to do, please come get me”. Orientation week was jam-packed. There was lots of wandering around with a map in hand, asking for directions and following people I recognised, working out whether I had time to make the Philosophy talk, or should I go straight to Celtic Civ instead? My friends from home were at different unis, and I wasn’t all that great at starting conversations with new people. (One time I talked about a wobbly chair until silence took over…) It got easier, but many things remained jumbled.

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How To Handle Primary Source Archives – University Lecturer’s Top Tips

Hands gesturing to explain. Table and Laptop.

│By Lily Cratchley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham│

Through the medium of a Zoom interview, Dr Daniel Whittingham, History Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, talked me through how he found Gale Primary Sources integral to writing his book, Charles E. Callwell and the British Way in Warfare (Cambridge University Press, 2019), and then kindly offered his professional advice for students about finding, using and citing online archives, including the best ways to incorporate primary sources into an essay or dissertation.

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How I Survived Studying in Lockdown – and You Can Too

Digital drawing of person studying and stressed

│By Emily Priest, Digital Marketing MA student at the University of Portsmouth│

Deadlines. They are hard enough to deal with – the stress, the never ending reading lists, the work that keeps piling up, the ominously unfinished dissertation – but what happens when you add a pandemic into the mix? Panic and pandemonium. It was a seemingly impossible challenge yet, somehow, I managed to embrace the unique insanity of it all and make it out in one piece.

When lockdown hit in March 2020, lectures were cancelled and the library shut, but university work was still expected on time and many students were thrown into a panic. I was one of those students and although I didn’t have a final year dissertation to hand in, I still had valuable assignments that would make or break my final MA grade. How was I going to cope? At this time, little was on Moodle (the online learning platform used at Portsmouth) in terms of teaching materials so, like a lot of students, I felt more than a little stranded.

But I was determined not to let the situation beat me.

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Celebrating VE Day in 1945 and 2020

│By Megan Bowler, Gale Ambassador at the University of Liverpool│

With Remembrance Day events looking a little different in the UK this year, you may recall that we also celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day under lockdown. Due to coronavirus restrictions, many of the big celebrations that were planned were postponed. While we wait for large public gatherings and events to become possible once more, I took the opportunity to use archival sources to look back to the first VE Day celebrations, and, using recent news stories from Gale OneFile: News, compare the events of 2020 with those of 1945. Providing access to articles written up to the present day from over 2,300 major world newspapers, Gale OneFile: News will be extremely useful for a study of this kind, whilst Gale Primary Sources offers perspectives from both national and regional newspaper archives.

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‘Little Sure Shot of the Wild West’ – The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley takes a shot in front of a crowd.

│By Eloise Sinclair, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

In July 1889, Mr. Russell Harrison, the son of US President Benjamin Harrison, visited Buffalo Bill’s Wild West encampment. He was welcomed with a spectacular breakfast of “clam chowder, baked beans with a flavor of savory pork, corn bread, custard pie and ice cream”. After which, he was taken for “a ride in the famous Deadwood Coach,” and gifted with a 5-cent piece. This was no ordinary 5-cent coin – a hole had been pierced through its centre by one of Annie Oakley’s bullets. I first learned about the celebrated sharpshooter Annie Oakley and the role she played in providing the West with an identity during a trip to the National Cowgirl Museum in Texas, a visit which left me eager to learn more. By using Gale Reference Complete, a package of digital resources available at Durham, I was able to explore a range of documents detailing her life and legacy.

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The Phantom of Popularity

"Tills ringing Phantom keeps audiences enthralled." Financial Times, 30 Apr. 2007, p. 20. Financial Times Historical Archive

│By Evelyn Moran, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland Galway│

Most of us grow up watching musicals on TV, our childhood a medley of singing animals and cartoon princesses. Sometimes we even sing the songs in the shower. As a society we’ve created academic courses on the subject and vigorously debated the merits of live shows versus DVDs. One musical that has without a doubt entered the collective consciousness is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, itself an adaptation of the Gaston Leroux novel. Phantom has left its imprint on pop culture and on the theatre. In this blog post I use Gale Primary Sources to learn more about the musical, which movies may have influenced it, and perhaps shed some light on how it has so enchanted us.

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History Lecturer uses Gale Primary Sources to Research Spanish National Pride

Lady with pig and joints of ham

│By Pauli Kettunen, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

As I have previously emphasised here on The Gale Review, students have much to gain from using primary source archives. And not just for minor assignments – in this post Lily Deans from the University of Birmingham explained how she used Gale Primary Sources in her final-year dissertation. Developing on this, I now want to spotlight how Gale Primary Sources is extensively used by our lecturers as well – it really is bona fide research material! In this post, I interview Alejandro Gómez del Moral, Ph.D., a University Lecturer of Economic and Social History at the University of Helsinki.  He is using Gale Primary Sources in his current research project and was willing to share his thoughts with me. Due to the pandemic, we had our discussion on a video call, and Gómez del Moral was quick to mention how glad he was that these digital sources are still available for his research while many physical locations are closed.

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