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Edinburgh Classics Essay Guidelines Middle School

Research profile. The MSc by Research in Archaeology is aimed at students who have a specific topic of interest into which they wish to conduct their own research. Read more…

Research profile

The MSc by Research in Archaeology is aimed at students who have a specific topic of interest into which they wish to conduct their own research.

We welcome applications from anyone keen to work in fields that overlap with or complement our academic staff interests. These include human osteoarchaeology, forensic anthropology and archaeology, isotopes and science-based methods of investigation, geographical information systems, early civilisations and urban societies in the Mediterranean and Europe, Egyptology, Roman archaeology, the Byzantine world and late antiquity, hunter-gatherers and the spread of farming in Europe, megalithic monuments, later European prehistory and the archaeology of Scotland. As part of your application, you must submit a viable research proposal which sets out your aims and plans, while demonstrating your knowledge of the chosen field: this will be scrutinised as part of our admissions process. Two supervisors will be appointed to work with you on the project. It is a good idea to consult with prospective supervisors in advance of an application.

The School of History, Classics & Archaeology, and our relationships with other subject areas and external organisations, such as the National Museums of Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland, allow us to arrange interdisciplinary study and supervision.

Programme structure

A long dissertation is the sole form of assessment, but you will also attend a prescribed training course and are encouraged to take other relevant courses.

Facilities

Our building offers you exceptional, modern facilities, resources and study spaces, in a stunning location.

Our postgraduate students have access to:

  • A dedicated study and computing lab with printing, copying and scanning facilities, overlooking the Meadows, one of the city’s best-loved green spaces.
  • Two research rooms, shared with undergraduates, housing some of our impressive book collections and a small selection of computing facilities.
  • A large common room overlooking the Meadows, shared by students and staff.
  • Our PhD study room. Subject to available desk space, you may apply after semester one of your first year.
  • A number of small-scale teaching rooms, well-equipped with facilities such as data projection and smart boards.
  • Exhibition areas, filled with artefacts and artwork from our collections.

All of our facilities are in addition to the multiple libraries and computer labs provided across the University’s estate. Many of our rooms overlook the Meadows.

Our location, right in the heart of Edinburgh, means you will be based close to the city’s cultural attractions and facilities, including a wealth of libraries, archives, museums and galleries, which provide uniquely rich support for the disciplines we teach.

Archaeology students benefit from our laboratories for artefact analysis, environmental archaeology, osteoarchaeology, bone chemistry and computing (with a wide range of software applications). There is an extensive reference collection of archaeological materials, such as pottery, metal, stone and glass artefacts, in the V Gordon Childe teaching collection. Students can also benefit from the facilities, archives, collections and expertise of a range of heritage agencies and commercial archaeology units based in the city of Edinburgh.

Career opportunities

Archaeology graduates can follow a variety of career options. The programme equips you to go on to advanced study, and also provides a solid foundation for a career. You will gain practical as well as academic experience, teamworking and analytical skills, and will be able to work in a variety of contexts. Examples of career paths available to archaeology graduates (although some may require additional training) include: higher education, heritage management and agencies, commercial archaeology, teaching, tourism industry, broadcasting and the police. An archaeology degree does not restrict you to a career in archaeology.



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As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.

“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”

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Poke holes

The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.

“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”

But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.

“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?

“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”

Critique your own arguments

Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.

“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”

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Fine, use Wikipedia then

The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.

“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”

Focus your reading

Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.

Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.

You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.

“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”

There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.

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Look beyond the reading list

“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”

And finally, the introduction

The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.

“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”

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