Ah! – or Aagh! – that time of the year again … marking and external examining (why, I wonder??): looking at the results of a year’s hard work by both students and staff and how that translates into written work. We are often asked, “How do I get a first class grade?” Here are some obvious answers:
1. Get the basics right – a first class piece of work should at least be well-written, using sentences, punctuating and spelling correctly. I cannot see a first class essay as one that has incomplete sentences, is littered with basic grammatical errors, etc. Similarly, referencing – footnotes and bibliographies – should be in the right format. By level 6 (year 3) there really is no excuse for getting these basics wrong.
2. READ! your bibliography will reflect the amount you have read and the range – you have to engage with historians and their arguments (historiography). This means using more than general survey texts; monographs and journal articles are a must.
3. And finally – having done all the reading, you cannot just list or outline the views of other historians; a good answer is going to have an argument, a conclusion, and hopefully a point of view coming down on one side or the other, answering the question set – or in a dissertation, the questions posed by the writer in their introduction.
When a student manages this, the results are often really a pleasure to read – they show understanding, engagement, and enthusiasm. I hope your work falls into this category – but if not, keep working at it, and remember – READ!