The Extended Essay

In my 'Quick Look Back on Trinity' post I mentioned my take home exam of 9 days. I thought that would be the grossest end to a term I could have. And time scale and stress wise it was certainly up there. But, lucky me, for historians, at the end of Michaelmas of third year there is an extended essay of 6,000 words on a your special subject topic. Halfway through term an exam paper is released with eight possible questions and then you have until the end of 0th week (For me it was Friday 14th of Jan) to hand it in. My special subject is Ming Chinese painting and culture which I'm really enjoying. The sources are beautiful and when I excitedly tell my parents the topic of the week, I generally find I've absorbed more information than I had realised. However, trying to distil everything to answer a question you haven't been gearing towards is still a task.

You can take it on in different ways. A tutor at college suggested starting it during the term in the background, having a first draft written by the end of term, leaving it entirely over Christmas and then making the final revisions in the week before the deadline. When I was told this I nodded along sagely, thinking it was really quite an excellent plan. I would be so on top of things. But, of course term took over and I was only just keeping up with my weekly work so I didn't really start working on it until term had ended where i spent a few days just gathering and checking out books from different libraries. 

And so, I went home for Christmas and almost immediately started reading for the essay. I think I probably read for just over a week, with a few breaks like Christmas shopping and a pub evening or two with friends. It seemed to take ages, as did the planning aspect, and then finally I managed to write a first draft. As I sat there writing up this blog post as a break, I'd just finished the second draft and I'm about 1,000 words over the word limit.

I found talking through my ideas was quite helpful even though my family didn't know the subject in as much depth as I did. My parents  also looked over it to check my grammar and clarity which has been really helpful because you can go essay blind and simply stop noticing your mistakes.

Over all it wasn't too terrible although I did get a bit bored of tinkering with it  and I found sitting at the table pouring over the same thing for hours on end sent me a little bit bonkers. 

Working from home often does though. I find I exercise less and sometimes don't leave the house all day, whereas being at Oxford means trekking into town for lunch at college or to use the libraries and it involves seeing more people and some variety. The extended essay is the antipathy of variety. Still I've felt accomplished now it's completed, it's like a mini dissertation (although worth the same in terms of weighting) so it's good practice and will definitely help as a revision tool as I've had to re-acquaint and get to grips with a lot of primary sources, themes, and reading etc.

After this, it's onto the dissertation which will be quite the project! 


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