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This course is assessed in a combined end-of-semester submission of a portfolio consisting of student work up to a maximum of 5000 words, with a self-assessment and bibliography that does not count toward the word total. The portfolio will demonstrate that the student has met the learning outcomes through course activities combining broad engagement with in-depth examination of specific themes or methods, deriving from the questions and methods developed in course discussions and readings. The self-assessment will evaluate the student's learning in relation to their personal goals and the course learning outcomes, and students will build toward the self-assessment with discussions of goals and learning approaches at the start and middle of the course.

Submission Components

Your submission will consist of a cover sheet (please download from this page in March), Self Evaluation, Bibliographic Essay, Topical Analysis, Narrative Exercise, and Bibliography. There will be opportunities for feedback for these during the semester.

If there are other formats or approaches you would like to attempt based on your own learning goals and needs for the course, you may propose alternative portfolio elements to the course organisers no later than week 6 of the course, and these must be approved prior to submission. We are happy to discuss your ideas with you.

For your Bibliographic Essay, Topical Analysis, and Narrative Exercise, we ask you to send both course organisers a brief sketch (can be as little as a few sentences plus identification of a couple key sources) of your proposed topic by the end of week 6 for feedback. We will discuss these collectively during week 7.

Self Evaluation

You will reflect on your learning activities in the course, including your contributions as presenter and recorder, and how you have met the course learning outcomes and your personal goals for the semester. You will also consider the marking criteria for the course and give yourself a mark. There is no word limit but we expect this portion of your submission will be about 1-2 pages. We will discuss the self-evaluation process during class toward the end of the semester.

Your self evaluation should be structured in four components:


Everyone comes to this course with a different background and interests and has different needs and priorities for the course. Your outcome for the course should be understood in the context of your own situation and aims. What were your initial goals for the course (and why), and have they changed during the semester (and why)?


You have been asked to be very independent in determining what and how you read and prepare and develop skills in this course. What did you do in this course to achieve your goals? What worked well to help you learn? Were there activities that were initially a struggle where you saw yourself improving? How did you approach your reading, writing, and other learning activities? Were there activities where you put in a special effort or that felt especially significant? Were there activities where you missed out or did not devote as much attention as you think you could/should have?


What did you achieve in this course? Is there an achievement of which you are particularly proud? Look at your goals as well as the official learning outcomes and point to evidence from your activities and portfolio submission that demonstrates what you have accomplished.


What mark would you give yourself, and why?

Please refer explicitly to the official marking criteria. We suggest you mark yourself with a multiple of 5, e.g. 65 if you feel firmly in the criteria for 60-69, or 60 if you feel on the border between the 50-59 and 60-69 criteria. Some indicative guidelines for this particular assessment are:

  • 0-30: incomplete assessment, partial answer, or otherwise does not evidence completing the course outcomes to the extent hoped. File a Special Circumstances application if applicable and use the feedback from this submission to improve your work for the summer resit diet.
  • 30-40: these marks tend to reflect not having been able to focus on the course, picking up bits and pieces but not demonstrating completing the course to the desired minimum standard. Usually, submissions show “completing the assessment without completing the course” and you may have found yourself relying heavily on external sources or guesswork rather than understandings built up from the semester's readings and discussions. If you find yourself in this position, we'd rather you take the time to regroup and refocus on course materials for the resit rather than rush through this kind of submission, and we are happy to give feedback on what you have at the deadline to help you toward this.
  • 40-50: this is a basic passing mark. You've demonstrated understanding of the essential ideas of the course by completing all elements of the assessment, fully citing course readings to show your engagement with them, and showing that you have met the learning outcomes.
  • 50-60: this is a mainline passing mark. You have shown not just a minimum understanding of the course and attainment of the learning outcomes but a solid understanding that you can take with you in your further studies. You have shown an understanding of not just individual ideas and themes but how they connect to each other and across the course.
  • 60-70: this is a high passing mark. You have thoroughly demonstrated your understanding of course themes and your attainment of learning outcomes. You discuss and fully cite course readings with confidence, informed by your clear understanding of major ideas from seminar discussions.
  • 70-80: this is a distinction mark. You have gone above and beyond to show your mastery of the course materials and themes, drawing out nuances and implications that go beyond what we discussed in the seminar and developing higher level connections based on your independent effort to synthesize and interrogate what we covered in the class.
  • 80-100: you have demonstrated an authoritative mastery of the course, with a confident understanding of how details and connections across the course matter in terms of the course themes.

We do not think marks should be mysterious, and hopefully this evaluation process gives you an accurate sense of where your work stands, but we may raise or reduce your mark if we think it should be higher or lower after reading your whole submission.

Bibliographic Essay

Further details have been discussed in class.

  • Approximately 2000 words, not including bibliography.
  • Choose a weekly theme from the course (or propose your own cross-cutting theme).
  • Read at least 3 items in detail and enough of the Further Readings and relevant sources identified based on your detailed reading to situate these core sources in a historiographical conversation.
  • Some examples of multibook reviews or bibliographic essays can be found in the reviews section of Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences for recent years or a recent collection of bibliographic essays on literature related to pandemics.

Topical Analysis

Further details have been discussed in class.

  • Approximately 2000 words.
  • Choose a topic related to your own academic interests and historicize it using materials from the course Resource List as well as relevant further readings.
  • Your analysis should demonstrate mastery of course concepts and readings.

A good resource for identifying further readings related to your topic (in addition to consulting Lukas and Michael) is the Isis Current Bibliography.

Narrative Exercise

Further details have been discussed in class.


Details about the Bibliography were discussed in class and can be inferred from the submission template.

Submission Process and Technicalities

Please download and use this submission template. Please title the file with your exam number (starting with 'B' on your student ID card) followed by 'TopicsHMSM' e.g. 'B123456_TopicsHMSM.docx'

The School of Social and Political Science submission site is here. Guidance on how to use it is here. Please ignore the part about using the School's generic template; this course uses our own.

Word Limit

There is a strict word limit of 5000 words for the combined Bibliographic Essay, Topical Analysis, and Narrative Exercise components. Individual components will vary in length, though we suggest you keep to a range of 1500-2500 words for the longer components and 500-1000 words for the Narrative Exercise so that they are neither too short nor too long.

Academic Integrity

(Statement borrowed from Dr Barany's introductory history of science course.)

The philosophy of this course is that students are basically honest and interested in learning, and if we are doing our job as instructors you will not be interested in cheating and there will be nothing much to gain from it. If you ever feel tempted to submit work that you haven't actually done for yourself for this course, we'd rather you just talk to us about time management, study skills, or making the assignments more interesting so that you can actually learn from the course!

We also think it is our responsibility to teach you good habits of reading, writing, and referencing. These are lifelong skills that go beyond slogans like “write in your own words” and “cite your sources”. As long as you take these lessons seriously and follow the assignment guidance there is no need to stress about “plagiarism rules” or “accidental misconduct”.

If you are struggling in the course or do not know how to do something you think you should be doing, we would always rather have a conversation with you about it and try to help, even if the deadline is near.

This course does not use commercial similarity-scoring software. Researchers at our university and colleagues around the world have shown such software to be dubious and harmful for pedagogy.

The School of Social and Political Science has a somewhat different attitude and approach toward “Academic misconduct” based more on the idea of catching lazy or dishonest students in wrongdoing and punishing them for it. This course is subject to the associated policies at this website.

topics/assessment.txt · Last modified: 2023/09/06 22:54 by mjb