Humanities

Table of Contents:


 

Classics

Libraries:

The Stelios Ioannou Centre for Research in Classical and Byzantine Studies, Sackler, Taylorian, Bodleian and Christ Church Libraires.

Course Structure:

Course IA: Latin and Greek, for those who have studied Latin and Greek to A-level or equivalent

Course IB: Latin and Greek, for those who have studied only Latin to A-level or equivalent

Course IC: Latin and Greek, for those who have studied only Greek to A-level or equivalent

For those studying course IA, IB, IC, your courses over the first five terms will include:

Homer’s Iliad

Virgil’s Aeneid

Texts and contexts: integrating literary/ archaeological material

A special subject in Philosophy (ancient or modern)

A classical special subject: historical, archaeological or philological

Greek and Latin language work

Course IIA: Latin only, for those who have not studied Greek or Latin to A-level or equivalent. Over the first five terms, you will study:

Virgil’s Aeneid

Special subjects and Texts and contexts (as Course I)

Latin language work

Course IIB: Greek only, for those who have not studied Latin or Greek to A-level or equivalent. Over the first five terms, you will study:

Homer’s Iliad

Special subjects and Texts and contexts (as Course I)

Greek language work

Reading and Planning:

  • Most of the books on your reading list are in Christ Church Library. However, given that many people may need access to the same books, you may want to borrow your books from the Sackler Library.
  • There are certain editions of books that have been set in your reading list, which can be found in the handbook. For example, the version of Homer in your reading list is part of the Oxford Classical Texts series by Munro. Versions of texts vary quite a lot and some have their own conventions, so be aware of what you should be looking for!
  • You can get PDF copies of the Oxford Classical Texts via this link: https://www.oxfordscholarlyeditions.com
  • When translating Greek or Latin texts, Perseus is a very helpful tool: https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/search
  • When searching terms, try and keep a list of what you looked up so you can reference your own tailored vocabulary list in the future.
  • As your reading progresses, think up a structure for your essay. Use essays to develop an argument, not as places to store information. Include background material only when it is relevant for the question you have been asked. 
  • Click here to learn more about how to structure an essay

Literary commentaries and gobbets for Classical Special Subjects:

Commenting on a text isn’t the same as writing a short essay, so it requires different skills. The biggest difference is that a commentary (or gobbet) requires you to analyse of a single passage of text, whereas an essay about making a more general argument on a topic, using a range of source. The purpose of the commentary is to see how familiar you are with the set texts and your ability to perceptively analyse passages from the texts.

Here are some guidelines on writing a commentary:

  • Context. Briefly identify the context. If the passage is part of direct speech, tell the reader who the speaker is. If you are focussing on an event, note this down in the historical context, by noting down information such as chronology, geography etc.
  • Content. Say what you feel should be said about the passage as a whole. This will vary from author to author but you should consider how the passage fits into the overall themes of the work that it comes from, and its place in the plot and narrative development. Consider these questions: Is this a crucial or a pivotal point? Does it look forward or back to other points? Try to cross-refer to other relevant passages, but do this briefly. You may also need to explain details necessary to the understanding of the passage, such as the identity of named individuals, any interesting places etc.
  • Significance. This is where you explain why and how this particular passage is interesting or important. For example, the passage might reveal something about the method of the writer, or it might offer interesting comparison with one or more other ancient accounts, artefacts etc. Think about what difference this passage and its interpretation makes to our understanding of something.
  • Say what you feel should be said about the details of the passage, going through it in order or by theme? and indicating points of interest. You may find it useful to quote a few words of the original and then comment on them or use line numbers to refer to the text.

 

Classics and Modern Languages

Libraries:

The Stelios Ioannou Centre for Research in Classical and Byzantine Studies, Sackler, Taylorian, Bodleian and Christ Church Libraires.

Course Structure:

Two routes through the course, called ‘options’, are available to CML students. This is separate from whether you will study Course I (if you have studied Latin and/or Greek to A-level standard or equivalent) or Course II (if you have not).

  • Option A divides its time evenly between Classics (mostly language and literature) and Modern Languages.
  • Option B begins with a focus on Classics. For the first five terms, students take all the same options in Greek and/or Latin language, literature, ancient history, archaeology, philology and ancient or modern philosophy as are available to students of Classics. To learn more about the Classics Course, click here.

Resources: To learn more about the Classics and Modern Languages course, click here: https://youtu.be/auOAk0eQpKI

Reading and Planning for Classics:

  • The first place to check for books once you have your reading list Christ Church Library. You may want to visit the Sackler Library too. 
  • There are certain editions of books that have been set in your reading list, which can be found in the handbook. Make sure you check this, as conventions can vary significantly between different editions of the same text. 
  • You can get PDF copies of the Oxford Classical Texts via this link: https://www.oxfordscholarlyeditions.com
  • When translating Greek or Latin texts, Perseus is a very helpful tool: https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/search
  • When searching terms, try and keep a list of what you looked up so you can reference your own tailored vocabulary list in the future.

Reading and Planning for Modern Languages:

  • Try your best to read books in the language you are learning- the more you do it, the faster and easier it will become! Look up vocabulary that you are struggling with and, at first, try reading translations with the reading if you are finding the process difficult.
  • Make notes or highlight key parts of the book you have read that might be useful when writing your essays (remember to note down the page numbers.) This will make looking for quotes much easier.
  • Online dictionaries are really useful resources. Larousse and Collins have great French dictionaries whilst Linguee is good for showing words and phrases in specific contexts. For German, the Stilwörterbuch (Duden 2) can help show you how certain words are used. There is a physical copy of this in the Christ Church Library.
  • Remember that if you begin your search in a bilingual dictionary it is always best to double-check the word or phrase you need in a monolingual dictionary.
  • Here is the Oxford LibGuide for Modern Languages: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/modern-languages

Writing:

  • Tutors will ask you to translate ‘idiomatically’. So, if you’re translating into English, make sure you carry across the meaning of the original and try to make it sound like something an English speaker would actually write! This takes practice and over time it will become easier to do.
  • When your written exercises are returned to you, take the time to go carefully through all the corrections your tutor has made. It can be helpful to compare your written pieces over a period of time – do you make the same mistake or type of mistake regularly? Are there points which you need to ask your tutor for help with? The first year is the year in which to get to grips with those grammar points which you have never been quite sure of. Sorting them out now will leave you free to concentrate later on finer points of your writing and speaking skills.

Literary commentaries and gobbets for Classical Special Subjects:

Commenting on a text isn’t the same as writing a short essay, so it requires different skills. The biggest difference is that a commentary (or gobbet) requires you to analyse a single passage of text, whereas an essay is about making a more general argument on a topic, using a range of source. The purpose of the commentary is to see how familiar you are with the set texts and your ability to perceptively analyse passages from the texts.

Here are some guidelines on writing a commentary:

  • Context. Briefly identify the context. If the passage is part of direct speech, tell the reader who the speaker is. If you are focussing on an event, note this down in the historical context, by noting down information such as chronology, geography etc.
  • Content. Say what you feel should be said about the passage as a whole. This will vary from author to author but you should consider how the passage fits into the overall themes of the work that it comes from, and its place in the plot and narrative development. Consider these questions: Is this a crucial or a pivotal point? Does it look forward or back to other points? Try to cross-refer to other relevant passages, but do this briefly. You may also need to explain details necessary to the understanding of the passage, such as the identity of named individuals, any interesting places etc.
  • Significance. This is where you explain why and how this particular passage is interesting or important. For example, the passage might reveal something about the method of the writer, or it might offer interesting comparisons with one or more other ancient accounts, artefacts etc. Think about what difference this passage and its interpretation makes to our understanding of something.
  • Say what you feel should be said about the details of the passage, going through it in order or by theme? and indicating points of interest. You may find it useful to quote a few words of the original and then comment on them or use line numbers to refer to the text.

 

Classics and Oriental Studies

Libraries:

The Stelios Ioannou Centre for Research in Classical and Byzantine Studies, Sackler, Taylorian, Bodleian, Bodleian Nizami Ganjavi Oriental Institute Library, China Centre Library, Japanese Library, Leopold Muller Memorial Library, Middle East Centre Library, Sackler, Eastern Art Library and and Christ Church Libraires.

Resources:

To learn more about the Classics and Oriental Studies course, click here: https://youtu.be/aGmJtKt0h60

To learn more about locating resources for Oriental Studies, use this LibGuide: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/sb.php?subject_id=84096

Course Structure:

There are two versions of the course: (a) Classics with Oriental Studies, in which Classics is the main subject and there is an additional Oriental language; and (b) Oriental Studies with Classics, in which the main subject is drawn from Oriental Studies and Classics provides the additional language(s).

  • BA Classics and Oriental Studies (Classics with Oriental Studies) The requirements for Classics as a main subject are as follows: you study five papers, of which at least two must involve study of texts in either Greek or Latin (or both). These text-based papers are marked with an asterisk in the list of Classics 9 options (section 4 below). If you take Greek or Latin for Beginners (which consists of two papers), you must also take another text-based option. To learn more about the Classics course structure for Year 1, click here.
  • The requirements for Classics as an Additional Language are as follows: You study three papers, of which at least one must involve study of texts in either Greek or Latin (or both). The languages you can study include:
  • Akkadian
  • Arabic
  • Egyptian
  • Hebrew
  • Persian
  • Sanskrit
  • Turkish

Planning and Reading:

  • Most of the books on your reading list are in Christ Church Library. However, given that many people may need access to the same books, you may want to borrow your books from the Sackler Library.
  • There are certain editions of books that have been set in your reading list, which can be found in the handbook. For example, the version of Homer in your reading list is part of the Oxford Classical Texts series by Munro. Versions of texts vary quite a lot and some have their own conventions, so be aware of what you should be looking for!
  • You can get PDF copies of the Oxford Classical Texts via this link: https://www.oxfordscholarlyeditions.com
  • When translating Greek or Latin texts, Perseus is a very helpful tool: https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/search
  • When searching terms, try and keep a list of what you looked up so you can reference your own tailored vocabulary list in the future.
  • Make notes from your reading for future reference (make sure to include the page number!) and also jot down any of your own ideas whilst you are reading. It may be worth writing your own ideas on a separate piece of paper, so you can refer back to it when you are writing your essay and making your own arguments. 
  • As your reading progresses, think up a structure for your essay. Use essays to develop an argument, not as places to store information. Include background material only when it is relevant for the question you have been asked. 

Writing:

  • An essay is an argument in answer to the specific question you have been asked, not a summary of what you have read.
  • An essay should include relevant concepts and technical terms you’ve learned about and you should avoid using difficult to understand language. Avoid stringing together quotes from other scholars- the reader wants to hear your ideas.
  • Tutors provide some written feedback on your tutorial essays. This may complement the tutorial discussion and address opportunities for improvement in your tutorial essay composition, as well as providing advice which is relevant to writing examination essays.
  • Language skills cannot be crammed for in the week before the exam but depend on regular practice. You will find it helpful to establish a weekly routine with regular slots set aside for completing each piece of language work – each piece is likely to require a slot of up to three hours. Make sure that you settle down to do your language work with the dictionaries and grammar books you will need to hand. Your language tutors will advise you on which dictionaries and grammar books you need to buy, but you may well also need to consult other dictionaries in your college library or in the Faculty library or online.
  • When your written exercises are returned to you, take the time to go carefully through all the corrections your tutor has made. It can be helpful to compare your written pieces over a period of time – do you make the same mistake or type of mistake regularly? Are there points which you need to ask your tutor for help with? The first year is the year in which to get to grips with those grammar points which you have never been quite sure of. Sorting them out now will leave you free to concentrate later on finer points of your writing and speaking skills.

 

Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

Libraries:

Christ Church Library, Sackler Library, Taylorian and Bodleian; The Stelios Ioannou Centre for Research in Classical and Byzantine Studies.

Course Structure:

Four courses are taken
Core elements:

  • Aristocracy and democracy in the Greek world, 550–450 BC
  • Republic to empire: Rome, 50 BC to AD 50

Current optional elements:

  • Archaeology: Homeric archaeology and early Greece from 1550 to 700 BC; Greek vases; Greek sculpture c600– 300 BC; Roman architecture
  • History: Thucydides and the West; Aristophanes’ political comedy; Cicero and Catiline; Tacitus and Tiberius
  • Ancient Languages: Beginning Ancient Greek or Latin; Intermediate Ancient Greek or Latin; Advanced Ancient Greek or Latin

 

  • You can expect to have one or two tutorials each week with one of your college tutors, or somebody else chosen by them for the particular option you are studying.
  • Your core subjects in Prelims are team‐taught in 90‐minute‐long classes of 6‐9 students by an archaeologist and an ancient historian. You will have one of these classes each week in the first two terms, and you will be asked to produce written work and/or a presentation for them, as for a tutorial.

Resources:

Planning and Writing:

  • For most tutorials and classes, you will be asked to produce written work, and a good deal of your time will be spent writing and preparing essays on topics suggested by your tutors. They will normally direct you towards some secondary reading. However, you should be careful not to let reading the bibliography detract from reading the primary texts and assessing the archaeological evidence, or to allow other scholars' writings to dictate the order of presentation of your own essays.
  • Most of the books on your reading list are in Christ Church Library. However, the Sackler Library also has copies of the key texts (make sure to check which edition of the book you need given that conventions vary between editions significantly). 
  • You can get PDF copies of the Oxford Classical Texts via this link: https://www.oxfordscholarlyeditions.com
  • When translating Greek or Latin texts, Perseus is a very helpful tool: https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/search
  • When searching terms, try and keep a list of what you looked up so you can reference your own tailored vocabulary list in the future.
  • As your reading progresses, think up a structure for your essay. Use essays to develop an argument, not as places to store information. Include background material only when it is relevant for the question you have been asked. 
  • Click here to learn more about how to structure an essay

 

English

Libraries:

English Faculty Library and Christ Church Library

Course Structure for First Years:

First Year (Prelims)

Introduction to English Language and Literature

Early Medieval Literature, c. 650-1350 

Literature in English 1830 - 1910 ('Victorian')

Literature in English 1910 - present day ('Modern')

First-year work requires you to submit one piece of coursework, a portfolio of two 1,500-word essays, towards the start of your third term. The year then culminates in a set of examinations, in which your other three papers are assessed through three-hour written examinations.

Resources:

  • To find out more about the course, visit the faculty website: https://www.english.ox.ac.uk/#/
  • You may have to share key readings with your peers so give yourself plenty of time to find books and be considerate of others who may be struggling to find a copy. If you’re having difficulty finding a book, email your Christ Church and English Faculty librarians.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Oxford English Dictionary: this can be found on SOLO (just type ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ in the search bar or find it in the database section at the bottom of the SOLO homepage). Some features on the OED, such as etymologies, will be really helpful for paper 1.
  • This ‘English at Oxford’ LibGuide will guide you through key online resources for each paper: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/english/english-at-oxford

Planning:

  • Write ideas as you go along: when reading primary texts, make notes as you go along and jot down any criticisms or analyses. When it comes to writing your essays, this technique will make the process of expressing your ideas easier and quicker.
  • Think about the terms in the question: the definition of some terms, such as ‘tradition’ or ‘modernism’ are debated. When they are used in an essay question, you have an opportunity to think about how you would define them (with help from the Oxford English Dictionary, for example).
  • Timing: remember that you are working to a deadline with essays, so you will have to prioritise your reading. This can be really difficult with English Literature, since there are endless books you could read! Think about which books or articles are most relevant in helping you answer the essay question, in order to determine where to spend your time.
  • The more you read, the quicker you will get at figuring out when a reading is useful or not. This skill takes time to develop, so don’t worry if it is taking you longer to read at the beginning. If you would like to know more on how to skim, click here (link to section on reading skills!)
  • Think about your argument: this is crucial! What are you going to say and why? Where is the essay going to go? These questions should be answered in your introduction. Each paragraph should contribute towards the overall argument you are making. Throughout your essay, you should be critically analysing the text in order to support your argument, pushing your argument by thinking about the implications of your interpretations.

Writing:

  • Be specific and avoid using the word ‘this’. Instead of ‘this’, think about what you are referring to. You want your writing to be clear to your reader- being accurate will help your reader understand your argument.
  • Avoid using generalisations in your essay. The best way to do this is to use direct quotes from your reading or to cite the analyses of key scholars when making a claim.
  • Be confident in your argument: try not to use words such as ‘may’ or ‘perhaps’ too often. Your tutor is interested in your ideas and what you think, so express yourself with confidence.

 

English and Modern Language

Libraries:

English Faculty Library, The Taylor Institution Library, the Faculty Library and Christ Church Library. Oxford Modern Languages students have access to the University’s Language Centre.

Course Structure:

Six papers are taken:

  • Introduction to English language and literature
  • One period paper from single honours English Language and Literature
  • Two practical language papers
  • Two literature papers in the modern language

Resources:

Here are the faculty websites:

https://www.english.ox.ac.uk/#/

https://www.mod-langs.ox.ac.uk/

For the Modern Language component of your degree:

Planning and Reading:

  • Try your best to read books in the original language- the more you do it, the faster and easier it will become! Look up vocabulary that you are struggling with and, at first, try reading translations with the reading if you are finding the process difficult.
  • Make notes or highlight key parts of the book you have read that might be useful when writing your essays (remember to note down the page numbers!) This will make looking for quotes much easier.
  • Online dictionaries are really useful resources. Larousse and Collins have great French dictionaries whilst Linguee is good for showing words and phrases in specific contexts. For German, the Stilwörterbuch (Duden 2) can help show you how certain words are used. There is a physical copy of this in the Christ Church Library.
  • Remember that if you begin your search in a bilingual dictionary it is always best to double-check the word or phrase you need in a monolingual dictionary.
  • Here is the Oxford LibGuide for Modern Languages: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/modern-languages

Writing:

  • Try to read criticism and articles for that week’s text as part of your week (in the same way as you would a translation) rather than just as preparation for an essay.
  • You will be asked to translate ‘idiomatically’.This means that if you’re translating into English, you need to make sure that you carry across the meaning of the original, making it sound like something an English speaker would actually write! This takes practice and over time it will become easier to do.
  • Whether you are doing one or two languages you will have a regular schedule of language classes to attend each week. It is very important to attend all your language classes and to complete the written exercises set. Language skills need to be developed over time. Think about creating a routine that allows you to practise your language skills and complete set work across the week. Each piece of work you are set is likely to take up to three hours to complete.
  • Make sure that you settle down to do your language work with the dictionaries and grammar books you will need to hand. Your language tutors will advise you on which dictionaries and grammar books you need to buy, but you may well also need to consult other dictionaries in your college library, in the Faculty library or online.
  • When your written exercises are returned to you, take the time to go carefully through all the corrections your tutor has made. It can be helpful to compare your written pieces– do you make the same mistake or type of mistake regularly? Are there points which you need to ask your tutor for help with? The first year is the year in which to get to grips with those grammar points.

For the English Component of your degree:

Finding resources:

  • you may have to share key readings so give yourself plenty of time to find books and be considerate of others who may be struggling to find a copy. If you’re having difficulty finding a book, email your Christ Church and English Faculty librarians!
  • Familiarise yourself with the Oxford English Dictionary: This can be found on SOLO (just type ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ in the search bar or find it in the database section at the bottom of the SOLO homepage). Some features on the OED, such as etymologies, will be really helpful for paper 1.
  • This ‘English at Oxford’ LibGuide will guide you through key online resources for each paper: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/english/english-at-oxford

Planning:

  • Write ideas as you go along: When reading primary texts, make notes as you go along and jot down any criticisms or analyses. When it comes to writing your essays, this technique will make the process of expressing your ideas easier and quicker.
  • Think about the terms in the question: the definition of some terms, such as ‘tradition’ or ‘modernism’ are debated. When they are used in an essay question, you have an opportunity to think about how you would define them (with help from the Oxford English Dictionary, for example).
  • Timing: Remember that you are working to a deadline with essays, so you will have to prioritise your reading. This can be really difficult with English Literature, since there are endless books you could read! Think about which books or articles are most relevant in helping you answer the essay question, in order to determine where to spend your time.
  • The more you read, the quicker you will get at figuring out when a reading is useful or not. This skill takes time to develop, so don’t worry if it is taking you longer to read at the beginning. If you would like to know more on how to skim, click here.  
  • Think about your argument: This is crucial! What are you going to say and why? Where is the essay going to go? These questions should be answered in your introduction. Each paragraph should contribute towards the overall argument you are making. Throughout your essay, you should be critically analysing the text in order to support your argument, pushing your argument by thinking about the implications of your interpretations.

Writing:

  • Be specific and try to avoid using the word ‘this’. Instead of ‘this’, think about what you are referring to. You want your writing to be clear to your reader- being accurate will help your reader understand your argument.
  • Following on from this, avoid using generalisations in your essay. The best way to do this is to use direct quotes from your reading or to cite the analyses of key scholars when making a claim.
  • Be confident in your argument: try not to use words such as ‘may’ or ‘perhaps’ too often. Your tutor is interested in your ideas and what you think, so express yourself with confidence.

 

History

Libraries:

Bodleian History Faculty Library and Christ Church Library

Course Structure:  

The course consists of four papers. The Faculty’s regulations require that in the course of studying for the degree of History the student must choose at least one paper of the History of the British Isles (HBI) or European and World History (EWH) from each of three broad periods: Early, Middle and Late.

Students who take both the Preliminary and Final Honour Examinations need to do at least two papers in European History and at least one paper in World History from the following subjects: the European and World History papers in the Preliminary Examination and in the Final Honour School; the Optional Subjects in the Preliminary Examination; and the Further and Special Subjects in the Final Honour School.

Resources:

To learn more about how to find sources for your history essays, click here: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/history/collections/eresources

The History Faculty Website has a range of resources to help you develop your skills as a historian: https://www.history.ox.ac.uk/undergraduate-admissions#/

Reading:

  • You will be expected to read a lot of material in a short space of time. For a lot of students, university is the first time you will be expected to do this and, with practice, it will become much easier to read effectively under time pressure.
  • You will also encounter different types of writing. You will read research-based books, monographs, journal articles, book reviews and so on. You will be encouraged to read these texts alongside primary sources, particularly if you do an Optional Subject. Reading flexibly and instinctually are skills that will help you decide which texts or sections should be prioritised.
  • When reading, whilst it is important to think through new ideas, it is also important that you read with your essay question in mind. Think about these key questions:How do these facts and arguments affect the various positions which historians have taken on the issue? Are there other interpretations which don’t seem to have been suggested?
  • Make notes from your reading for future reference (make sure to include the page number) and also jot down any of your own ideas whilst you are reading. It may be worth writing your own ideas on a separate piece of paper, so you can refer back to it when you are writing your essay and making your own arguments.
  • Remember to think about continuities and changes over time when learning about a new topic. You won’t have the time to read every relevant work, so select texts based on their relevance and, after reading a variety of words, jot down sensible interpretations that can result in a meaningful argument for your essay.
  • Use footnotes from relevant texts to find more sources that can help you develop a good understanding of the essay topic.
  • To learn more about reading and making concise notes, click here
  • Planning your essay can be a complicated process. You need to draw together your reading and logically organise the information at hand so that you can show a good understanding of the arguments and concepts you have encountered. It is also crucial to make your own views of the question clear to the reader.
  • Planning will help you decide what to include and exclude from your essay. You can’t read every historical text related to your essay topic. You, as the writer, will have to make sensible decisions about what evidence and ideas will support your overall argument- deciding this in the planning phase will allow you to make these judgements, before committing to the writing process.
  • Click here to learn more about planning.  

Writing:

  • An essay is an argument in answer to the specific question you have been asked, so try not to string together all the texts you have read. Instead, make your own ideas clear to the reader.
  • You need to be analytical in your essay and make judgements about the quality of the evidence you are using to help support your argument.
  • Be confident in your argument and avoid using words such as ‘may’ or ‘perhaps’ too often!
  • Be precise and write as if your audience has no idea about the topic at hand- doing this will help you decide which contextual information is important to include and will help you avoid generalisations.
  • A history essay should include relevant concepts and technical terms you’ve learned about and you should avoid using difficult to understand language.
  • Consider these questions when using primary sources in your essay (courtesy of the American Library Association):
    • What is the source and what is it telling you?
    • Who is the author?
    • What biases/ assumptions may have influenced the author or creator?
    • Who was the intended audience?
    • What was the significance of the source at the time it was created?
    • Has the source been edited or translated, therefore potentially altering the original intent or purpose?
    • What questions could be answered using this source?
    • What are the limitations of the source?
    • Does your understanding of the source fit with other scholars’ interpretations, or does it challenge their argument?

 

History Ancient and Modern

Libraries:

Sackler Library, Bodleian Library, Christ Church Library.

Course Structure:

Choosing your Options

For Prelims, your college tutor may have decided on whether you will focus on Greek or Roman before you arrive, so that you can be given some introductory reading in advance. In addition, the Faculty will write to you, to see if you want to take one of the optional language papers.

It may be worthwhile to ask for advice as to whether it is more sensible to concentrate your papers in either Greek or Roman History, or to mix them; this will depend on your interests and background knowledge. There is no formal language requirement for admission to this course and the Optional Subjects are not studied in the original languages.

From the four papers you can choose from, Herodotus and Sallust do require study of texts in the original Greek and Latin and if you do not have any knowledge of either of these languages, your choice will be limited to the other two topics (Approaches to History or Historiography: Tacitus to Weber); or you can take one of the optional Beginning or Intermediate Greek or Latin papers.

Depending on the choices available to you, you will do either two papers in Ancient History and two papers in Modern History or three papers in Ancient History and one paper in Modern History or three papers in Modern History and one paper in Ancient History.

Throughout the whole Ancient and Modern History course you will:

  • acquire a knowledge and understanding of humanity in past societies and of historical processes;
  • approach the past through the work of a wide variety of historians, and therefore appreciate how History as a subject itself has developed in different societies;
  • learn how primary evidence is used in a historical argument;
  • enhance a range of skills, such as independent critical thinking, analysis and thinking creatively;
  • analyse and argue persuasively in writing;
  • develop the ability to work independently, and to plan and organize time effectively.

Resources:

To learn more about the course, click here: https://youtu.be/lA4mIt7FcaE

For Ancient History resources, click here: https://ox.libguides.com/sb.php?subject_id=84055

Reading and Planning:

  • You will be expected to read a lot of material in a short space of time. For many, university is the first time you will be expected to do this and, with practice, it will become much easier to read effectively under time pressure. You will also encounter types of writing that vary in form. Reading flexibly and instinctually are skills that will help you determine which texts or sections should be prioritised.
  • When reading, whilst it is important to think thorough new ideas, it is also recommended that you read with your essay question in mind. It might be worth thinking through these key questions:How do these facts and arguments affect the various positions which historians have taken on the issue? Are there other interpretations which don’t seem to have been suggested?
  • Make notes from your reading for future reference and also jot down any of your own ideas whilst you are reading. It may be worth writing this on a separate piece of paper, so you can refer back to it when you are writing your essay and making your own arguments.
  • Planning your essay can be a complicated process. It requires you to draw together your reading and logically organise the information at hand so that you can show a good understanding of the arguments and concepts you have encountered as well as making your own views of the question clear to the reader. Click here to learn more about planning.  

Writing:

  • Remember that your essay is an argument that answers a specific question, rather than a description of the work you have read.
  • Being able to craft an argument and to convincingly support it with evidence and your own analysis is a skill that develops with practice. Keep a record of the comments you receive from your tutor so that you can specifically target the areas of your writing which can be improved.
  • Generally, a history essay should use appropriate concepts and technical terms, you should avoid using difficult to understand language.
  • Consider these questions when using primary sources in your essay (courtesy of the American Library Association):
    • What is the source and what is it telling you?
    • Who is the author?
    • What biases/ assumptions may have influenced the author or creator?
    • Who was the intended audience?
    • What was the significance of the source at the time it was created?
    • Has the source been edited or translated, therefore potentially altering the original intent or purpose?
    • What questions could be answered using this source?
    • What are the limitations of the source?
    • Does your understanding of the source fit with other scholars’ interpretations, or does it challenge their argument?

 

History and Modern Languages

Libraries:

Bodleian Library, The Taylor Institution Library, the Modern Languages Faculty Library and Christ Church Library

Course Structure:

The course consists of four papers, divided into two parts: I (Modern Languages) and II (History).

Keep in mind how different subjects are scheduled in the History course. For example, lectures and teaching for the History of the British Isles tend to be provided in Michaelmas Term while those for European and World History papers are provided in the Hilary Term. The Optional Subject is taught in the Trinity term. ‘Foreign Texts’ are usually taught over Michaelmas and Hilary. Language and literature tend to be taught across all three terms. It is important that teaching is organized across the three terms to equalize the load as much as possible. For example, the experience of some students has been that choosing the History Optional Subject can lead to a heavy work-load in Trinity Term, when you also need to think about revision for the Preliminary Examination. Do feel free to discuss your options with tutors.

PART I Modern Languages

Part I (Modern Languages) consists of two papers as set out below. These papers are also offered in the Preliminary Examination in Modern Languages. 

Paper 1: Two Language papers (one of three hours, one consisting of two parts of 1 ½ hours each), including certification of attendance and participation in oral classes

These courses will be a combination of comprehension, précis, essay, translation, and grammatical exercises, depending on the language you are studying.

Paper 2: Two Literature papers on prescribed texts

A range of periods and genres is offered, depending on the language you are studying.

PART II History

Part II (History), consists of two papers as set out below.

Paper 3: European and World History

Studied in one of four periods, this is a paper which combines the study of an extended period with geographical range. It is approached more thematically than British Isles History, with an emphasis on the conceptual categories. of gender, economy, culture, state and religion, which enable us to understand both what past societies have had in common and where they have differed:

Paper 4: Any one option of (a) History of the British Isles; (b) an Optional Subject; or (c) a Paper 4 option ( (i) Approaches to History OR (ii) Historiography: Tacitus to Weber OR (iii) a Text in a Foreign Language)

Reading and Planning:

  • You will be expected to read a lot of material in a short space of time. For a lot of students, university is the first time you will be expected to do this and, with practice, it will become much easier to read effectively under time pressure.
  • You will also encounter different types of writing. You will be encouraged to read these texts alongside primary sources, particularly if you do an Optional Subject. Reading flexibly and instinctually are skills that will help you decide which texts or sections should be prioritised.
  • When reading, whilst it is important to think through new ideas, it is also important that you read with your essay question in mind. Think about these key questions:How do these facts and arguments affect the various positions which historians have taken on the issue? Are there other interpretations which don’t seem to have been suggested?
  • Make notes from your reading for future reference (make sure to include the page number) and also jot down any of your own ideas whilst you are reading. It may be worth writing your own ideas on a separate piece of paper, so you can refer back to it when you are writing your essay and making your own arguments.
  • Remember to think about continuities and changes over time when learning about a new topic. You won’t have the time to read every relevant work, so select texts based on their relevance and, after reading a variety of words, jot down sensible interpretations that can result in a meaningful argument for your essay.
  • Use footnotes from relevant texts to find more sources that can help you develop a good understanding of the essay topic.
  • Language skills need to be developed over time. Think about creating a routine that allows you to practise your language skills and complete set work across the week. Each piece of work you are set is likely to take up to three hours to complete.
  • Make sure that you settle down to do your language work with the dictionaries and grammar books you will need to hand. Your language tutors will advise you on which dictionaries and grammar books you need to buy, but you may well also need to consult other dictionaries in your college library, in the Faculty library or online.

Writing:

  • An essay is an argument in answer to the specific question you have been asked, so try to avoid being descriptive.
  • A history essay should use appropriate concepts and technical terms, you should avoid using difficult to understand language. Avoid stringing together quotes from other historians- the reader wants to hear your ideas!
  • Tutors will ask you to translate ‘idiomatically’. So, if you’re translating into English, make sure you carry across the meaning of the original and try to make it sound like something an English speaker would actually write! This takes practice and over time it will become easier to do.
  • When your written exercises are returned to you, take the time to go carefully through all the corrections your tutor has made. It can be helpful to compare your written pieces over a period of time – do you make the same mistake or type of mistake regularly?
  • Consider these questions when using primary sources in your essay (courtesy of the American Library Association):
    • What is the source and what is it telling you?
    • Who is the author?
    • What biases/ assumptions may have influenced the author or creator?
    • Who was the intended audience?
    • What was the significance of the source at the time it was created?
    • Has the source been edited or translated, therefore potentially altering the original intent or purpose?
    • What questions could be answered using this source?
    • What are the limitations of the source?
    • Does your understanding of the source fit with other scholars’ interpretations, or does it challenge their argument?

 

History and Politics

Libraries:

Social Sciences Library, Bodleian History Faculty Library, Christ Church Library

Course Structure:

In making your choices of period or subject in the two History papers, you should be aware that:

  • Some Colleges may restrict the choice of their undergraduates in some first-year papers;
  • The range of European and World History papers offered in the first year for Prelims differs from that available in the second and third year, examined in Finals; similarly, at the modern end, the British Isles History papers offered in Finals differ from those offered at Prelims.
  • The regulations for History and Politics require that in the HPOL course as a whole each student must offer at least one paper in European & World History or the History of the British Isles covering a period before the nineteenth century. If you do not satisfy this provision in Prelims, you will have to do so in Finals.

Choosing your Options

The First-Year course comprises four examined papers and an introductory course on Methods and Approaches in Politics:

1. History Period Paper: you may choose either one of six periods of the History of the British Isles or one of four periods of European & World History. Both the British Isles and the European & World History papers entail the study of extended periods of time.

2. Introduction to the Theory of Politics (section (a) of Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Politics)

This paper aims to familiarise students with major theoretical approaches to and issues in understanding democracy, through the study of key texts by Locke, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Marx and Engels, and Mill.

OR Optional Subject 1,Theories of the State (Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx):

this paper introduces students to some of the major influences upon the development of western political thought, through the study of key texts by Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau and Marx.

3. Documentary or Methodological Paper in History: you may choose one of the following:

(i) Quantification in History: acquiring and applying the numerical skills needed for certain types of historical investigation.

(ii) Optional Subject: offering a choice of around 20 subjects, this paper is based on the study of selected primary texts and documents, and provides the opportunity to engage with a range of more specialist approaches to understanding the past.

(iii) Approaches to History: studying the use by historians of the techniques of related disciplines, such as archaeology, economics or sociology.

(iv) Historiography: Tacitus to Weber: examining the practice of history writing through the writings of individual historians from the classical period to the early twentieth century (v) Texts in a Foreign Language: studying one of a number of historical classics in the original language.

4. Introduction to the Practice of Politics: This paper introduces students to the study of how politics and government is practised in democratic, partially-democratic and non-democratic states.

Resources:

To learn more about the course structure, click here: https://www.history.ox.ac.uk/ba-history-and-politics

Here is a guide to finding politics resources: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/politics

Reading:

  • You will be expected to read a lot of material in a short space of time. For a lot of students, university is the first time you will be expected to do this and, with practice, it will become much easier to read effectively under time pressure.
  • You will also encounter different types of writing. You will read research-based books, monographs, journal articles, book reviews and so on. You will be encouraged to read these texts alongside primary sources, particularly if you do an Optional Subject. Reading flexibly and instinctually are skills that will help you decide which texts or sections should be prioritised.
  • When reading, whilst it is important to think through new ideas, it is also important that you read with your essay question in mind. Think about these key questions:How do these facts and arguments affect the various positions which historians have taken on the issue? Are there other interpretations which don’t seem to have been suggested?
  • Make notes from your reading for future reference (make sure to include the page number) and also jot down any of your own ideas whilst you are reading. It may be worth writing your own ideas on a separate piece of paper, so you can refer back to it when you are writing your essay and making your own arguments.
  • Remember to think about continuities and changes over time when learning about a new topic. You won’t have the time to read every relevant work, so select texts based on their relevance and, after reading a variety of words, jot down sensible interpretations that can result in a meaningful argument for your essay.
  • Use footnotes from relevant texts to find more sources that can help you develop a good understanding of the essay topic.
  • To learn more about reading and making concise notes, click here
  • Planning your essay can be a complicated process. You need to draw together your reading and logically organise the information at hand so that you can show a good understanding of the arguments and concepts you have encountered. It is also crucial to make your own views of the question clear to the reader.
  • Planning will help you decide what to include and exclude from your essay. You can’t read every historical text related to your essay topic. You, as the writer, will have to make sensible decisions about what evidence and ideas will support your overall argument- deciding this in the planning phase will allow you to make these judgements, before committing to the writing process.
  • Click here to learn more about planning.  

Writing:

  • An essay is an argument in answer to the specific question you have been asked, so try not to string together all the texts you have read. Instead, make your own ideas clear to the reader.
  • You need to be analytical in your essay and make judgements about the quality of the evidence you are using to help support your argument.
  • Be confident in your argument and avoid using words such as ‘may’ or ‘perhaps’ too often!
  • Be precise and write as if your audience has no idea about the topic at hand- doing this will help you decide which contextual information is important to include and will help you avoid generalisations.
  • A history essay should include relevant concepts and technical terms you’ve learned about and you should avoid using difficult to understand language.
  • Consider these questions when using primary sources in your essay (courtesy of the American Library Association):
    • What is the source and what is it telling you?
    • Who is the author?
    • What biases/ assumptions may have influenced the author or creator?
    • Who was the intended audience?
    • What was the significance of the source at the time it was created?
    • Has the source been edited or translated, therefore potentially altering the original intent or purpose?
    • What questions could be answered using this source?
    • What are the limitations of the source?
    • Does your understanding of the source fit with other scholars’ interpretations, or does it challenge their argument?

 

History of Art

Libraries:

To learn more about the various libraries and museums available to History of Art students, click here: https://www.hoa.ox.ac.uk/museums-and-libraries

Course Structure:

he BA Degree in History of Art aims to enable its students to:

  • develop an historical understanding of the origins and functions of artefacts within specific world cultures;
  • provide skills in the critical analysis of images and objects through the cultivation of ‘visual literacy’;
  • develop skills in research, analysis and writing;
  • engage and enhance their critical skills, imagination and creativity as an intrinsic part of an intense learning experience;
  • promote skills of relevance to the continued professional development of art historical activity including visual and verbal skills, which are transferrable to a wide range of employment contexts and life experiences.

Core Paper: Introduction to the History of Art. The aim is to introduce students to a wider range of approaches and world cultures than is customary in most art history introductory courses, by showing how different kinds of societies and the availability of different kinds of evidence have elicited different kinds of responses from art historians both today and in the past.

Core Paper: European Art 1400-1900: Meaning and Interpretation. This paper seeks to refine skills in visual analysis by offering a varied and advanced set of tools and methods to analyse a wide-range of visual materials. The closely-integrated classes and tutorials that make up this paper provide different ways of seeing or “reading” early modern European art works so as to provide a profound visual literacy in distinct media.

Core Paper: Antiquity after Antiquity. The lectures, classes and tutorials that make up this paper form a lively and varied alternative to the typical art historical survey. The manner of presentation allows students to engage with the Classical tradition, including its regular critique in both theory and practice. The topics extend from the Middle Ages to the present day, effectively spanning the main period divisions of Western art history.

First Year Extended Essay: Objects, Images and Buildings in Oxford. This paper, submitted for assessment in Trinity Term of the First Year requires students to undertake a 5,000-word extended essay on an approved choice of building, image or object in Oxford.

Resources:

Learn more about the Visual Resources Centre:

https://www.hoa.ox.ac.uk/visual-resources-centre

https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/visualresourcescentre/home

Reading:

  • You will be expected to read a lot of material in a short space of time. For a lot of students, university is the first time you will be expected to do this and, with practice, it will become much easier to read effectively under time pressure.
  • You will also encounter different types of writing. You will read research-based books, monographs, journal articles, book reviews and so on. You will be encouraged to read these texts alongside primary sources, particularly if you do an Optional Subject. Reading flexibly and instinctually are skills that will help you decide which texts or sections should be prioritised.
  • When reading, whilst it is important to think through new ideas, it is also important that you read with your essay question in mind. Think about these key questions:How do these facts and arguments affect the various positions which historians have taken on the issue? Are there other interpretations which don’t seem to have been suggested?
  • Make notes from your reading for future reference (make sure to include the page number) and also jot down any of your own ideas whilst you are reading. It may be worth writing your own ideas on a separate piece of paper, so you can refer back to it when you are writing your essay and making your own arguments.
  • Remember to think about continuities and changes over time when learning about a new topic. You won’t have the time to read every relevant work, so select texts based on their relevance and, after reading a variety of words, jot down sensible interpretations that can result in a meaningful argument for your essay.
  • Use footnotes from relevant texts to find more sources that can help you develop a good understanding of the essay topic.
  • To learn more about reading and making concise notes, click here
  • Planning your essay can be a complicated process. You need to draw together your reading and logically organise the information at hand so that you can show a good understanding of the arguments and concepts you have encountered. It is also crucial to make your own views of the question clear to the reader.
  • Planning will help you decide what to include and exclude from your essay. You can’t read every historical text related to your essay topic. You, as the writer, will have to make sensible decisions about what evidence and ideas will support your overall argument- deciding this in the planning phase will allow you to make these judgements, before committing to the writing process.
  • Click here to learn more about planning.  

Writing:

  • An essay is an argument in answer to the specific question you have been asked, so try not to string together all the texts you have read. Instead, make your own ideas clear to the reader.
  • You need to be analytical in your essay and make judgements about the quality of the evidence you are using to help support your argument.
  • Be confident in your argument and avoid using words such as ‘may’ or ‘perhaps’ too often!
  • Be precise and write as if your audience has no idea about the topic at hand- doing this will help you decide which contextual information is important to include and will help you avoid generalisations.
  • A history essay should include relevant concepts and technical terms you’ve learned about and you should avoid using difficult to understand language.
  • Consider these questions when using primary sources in your essay (courtesy of the American Library Association):
    • What is the source and what is it telling you?
    • Who is the author?
    • What biases/ assumptions may have influenced the author or creator?
    • Who was the intended audience?
    • What was the significance of the source at the time it was created?
    • Has the source been edited or translated, therefore potentially altering the original intent or purpose?
    • What questions could be answered using this source?
    • What are the limitations of the source?
    • Does your understanding of the source fit with other scholars’ interpretations, or does it challenge their argument?

You must cite all the primary and secondary sources you use, as well as ideas you have included from other scholars. It is plagiarism if you do not.

Interpreting Visual Evidence

The course is supported by world-class collections of primary visual sources, including those at the Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library, Pitt Rivers Museum, Museum of the History of Science, Christ Church Picture Gallery and other college collections. Students are expected to familiarise themselves with these collections in order to be able to look at and write about them analytically, especially when preparing the First Year Extended Essay.


 

Modern Languages

Libraries:

The Taylor Institution Library, the Faculty Library and Christ Church Library. Oxford Modern Languages students have access to the University’s Language Centre.

Course Structure:

Your first year is closely structured. If you study two of French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Czech, Greek and Portuguese, you will attend oral classes and courses on the grammatical structure of both languages, translation into and out of both languages and, in some of the languages, comprehension. You will also attend introductory lecture courses and participate in seminars and/or tutorials on literature. The main components of the Modern Languages degree are language and literature. Language comprises 50% of both first-year and final examinations. On graduating, students can expect to speak fluently in colloquial and more formal situations, write essays, and translate with accuracy and sensitivity to vocabulary, styles and registers.

Planning and Reading:

  • Try your best to read books in the original language- the more you do it, the faster and easier it will become! Look up vocabulary that you are struggling with and, at first, try reading translations with the reading if you are finding the process difficult.
  • Make notes or highlight key parts of the book you have read that might be useful when writing your essays (remember to note down the page numbers!) This will make looking for quotes much easier.
  • Online dictionaries are really useful resources. Larousse and Collins have great French dictionaries whilst Linguee is good for showing words and phrases in specific contexts. For German, the Stilwörterbuch (Duden 2) can help show you how certain words are used. There is a physical copy of this in the Christ Church Library.
  • Remember that if you begin your search in a bilingual dictionary it is always best to double-check the word or phrase you need in a monolingual dictionary.
  • Here is the Oxford LibGuide for Modern Languages: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/modern-languages

Writing:

  • Try to read criticism and articles for that week’s text as part of your week (in the same way as you would a translation) rather than just as preparation for an essay. –
  • Tutors will ask you to translate “idiomatically”. So, if you’re translating into English, make sure you carry across the meaning of the original and try to make it sound like something an English speaker would actually write! This takes practice and over time it will become easier to do.
  • Whether you are doing one or two languages you will have a regular schedule of language classes to attend each week. It is very important to attend all your language classes and to complete the written exercises set. Language skills cannot be crammed for in the week before the exam but depend on regular practice. You will find it helpful to establish a weekly routine with regular slots set aside for completing each piece of language work – each piece is likely to require a slot of up to three hours. Make sure that you settle down to do your language work with the dictionaries and grammar books you will need to hand. Your language tutors will advise you on which dictionaries and grammar books you need to buy, but you may well also need to consult other dictionaries in your college library or in the Faculty library or online.
  • When your written exercises are returned to you, take the time to go carefully through all the corrections your tutor has made. It can be helpful to compare your written pieces over a period of time – do you make the same mistake or type of mistake regularly? Are there points which you need to ask your tutor for help with? The first year is the year in which to get to grips with those grammar points which you have never been quite sure of. Sorting them out now will leave you free to concentrate later on finer points of your writing and speaking skills.

 

European and Middle Eastern Languages

Libraries:

Taylor Institute Library, The Oriental Institute, Leopold Muller Library, Christ Church Library, Bodleian.

Course Structure:

The European and Middle Eastern Languages (EMEL) course enables students to combine papers in one of the languages taught in the Faculty of Modern Languages with papers in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish, providing opportunities to take advantage of the cultural links which exist between a number of European and Middle Eastern languages. The papers in the first year are organised as followed:

European languages:

  • Two language papers
  • One literature paper

Middle Eastern language: 

  • Intensive language learning

Resources:

To learn more about the course, click here: https://youtu.be/zYIVhmRE6Hw

Here is a list of resources for Modern Languages: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/modern-languages

Here is a guide for resources relevant to learning Middle Eastern Languages: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/MiddleEast

Planning and Reading:

  • Try your best to read books in the original language- the more you do it, the faster and easier it will become! Look up vocabulary that you are struggling with and, at first, try reading translations with the reading if you are finding the process difficult.
  • Make notes or highlight key parts of the book you have read that might be useful when writing your essays (remember to note down the page numbers!) This will make looking for quotes much easier.
  • Online dictionaries are really useful resources. Larousse and Collins have great French dictionaries whilst Linguee is good for showing words and phrases in specific contexts. For German, the Stilwörterbuch (Duden 2) can help show you how certain words are used. There is a physical copy of this in the Christ Church Library.
  • Remember that if you begin your search in a bilingual dictionary it is always best to double-check the word or phrase you need in a monolingual dictionary.
  • Here is the Oxford LibGuide for Modern Languages: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/modern-languages

Writing:

  • Try to read criticism and articles for that week’s text as part of your week (in the same way as you would a translation) rather than just as preparation for an essay. –
  • Tutors will ask you to translate “idiomatically”. So, if you’re translating into English, make sure you carry across the meaning of the original and try to make it sound like something an English speaker would actually write! This takes practice and over time it will become easier to do.
  • Whether you are doing one or two languages you will have a regular schedule of language classes to attend each week. It is very important to attend all your language classes and to complete the written exercises set. Language skills cannot be crammed for in the week before the exam but depend on regular practice. You will find it helpful to establish a weekly routine with regular slots set aside for completing each piece of language work – each piece is likely to require a slot of up to three hours. Make sure that you settle down to do your language work with the dictionaries and grammar books you will need to hand. Your language tutors will advise you on which dictionaries and grammar books you need to buy, but you may well also need to consult other dictionaries in your college library or in the Faculty library or online.
  • When your written exercises are returned to you, take the time to go carefully through all the corrections your tutor has made. It can be helpful to compare your written pieces over a period of time – do you make the same mistake or type of mistake regularly? Are there points which you need to ask your tutor for help with? The first year is the year in which to get to grips with those grammar points which you have never been quite sure of. Sorting them out now will leave you free to concentrate later on finer points of your writing and speaking skills.

 

Oriental Studies

Libraries:

Bodleian Nizami Ganjavi Oriental Institute Library, China Centre Library, Japanese Library, Leopold Muller Memorial Library, Middle East Centre Library, Sackler, Eastern Art Library, Christ Church Library.

Course Structure:

The following subjects are available within this degree: Arabic and Islamic Studies, Arabic with a subsidiary language, Chinese, Egyptology, Egyptology with Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Hebrew Studies, Jewish Studies, Japanese, Persian, Persian with a subsidiary language, Sanskrit, Turkish, Turkish with a subsidiary language.

Resources:

To learn more about your specific subject course structure, please click here: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses-listing/oriental-studies

Here is a guide for resources relevant to learning Middle Eastern Languages: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/MiddleEast

Planning:

The starting point of all good essays is an argument or a question. The key problem is to decide what needs to be said, the overall shape of the argument and how each part of the essay will link together. Take your time to answer these following questions, before delving into writing your essay:

  • What is the purpose of the essay?
  • What is the evidence?
  • What is your position in relation to the facts?
  • What is the conclusion?
  • What is the logical flow between the different parts of the argument?

Planning will help you decide what to include and exclude from your essay. You, as the writer, will have to make sensible decisions about what evidence and ideas will support your overall argument- deciding this in the planning phase will allow you to make these judgements, before committing to the writing process.

Reading and Writing:

  • You are usually set some work before the Tutorial, for example, a passage of text for study, an essay topic for which specific reading is set, or a passage of English to be translated into your language of study.
  • Think about which reading to prioritise. This will mean having your essay question in mind and deciding which texts and sources will help you answer the question at hand. Make sure you leave enough time to do this, particularly if you are reading sources in a different language.
  • An essay should include relevant concepts and technical terms you’ve learned about and you should avoid using difficult to understand language. Make sure you prioritise your own ideas- doing this will help you avoid writing in a descriptive way.
  • Developing a sound understand of speaking, reading and writing in a new language takes a lot of time. Employing these skills, particularly in the context of an essay, will get easier over time, so long as you dedicate enough time during your week to do the set pieces of work and to practise your newly-acquired skills. Using translations and having the recommended dictionaries for your chosen language at hand will help you when you are starting to learn a new language.

To learn more about your specific subject and the ways in which you will be assessed, please consult the handbook. You may also want to visit the Faculty website, to learn more about the courses: https://www.orinst.ox.ac.uk/article/our-courses


 

Philosophy

Libraries:

The Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library is within the Radcliffe Humanities building. There are also resources at Christ Church Library.

For more details on where to locate resource, please visit the Philosophy LibGuide page: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/philosophy

Course Structure:

It is not possible to study philosophy at undergraduate level as a single degree subject; all courses containing philosophy are joint courses. The reason for this is the belief that the parallel study of related disciplines significantly enhances your understanding of each, bringing added dimensions of understanding and perspective.

The joint courses containing philosophy are the following:

Reading:

Reading Philosophy takes a lot of time, given the complex concepts and densely-written texts you may come across.

According to Alessandra Fassio, a Philosophy student from the University of Edinburgh, here are some tips to help you understand your readings:

  • ‘Philosophical texts offer up arguments, which require you to interpret, analyse and evaluate what the author has written. This can sometimes mean you’ll need to read, re-read, and maybe re-read again before you feel confident in your understanding of the key issues they present. But don’t worry – this is normal! In fact, you’re almost never going to have a sound understanding of a text if you only read it once.’

  • ‘Don’t try and cram them all in the night before, and don’t try and do it all in one day. Stay organised, and make sure you’ve scheduled in time to read where you can. Reading in a rush is often going to leave you more confused than you were before you started.’

  • It is also useful to have some previous awareness about what it is you are reading. Find out when the text was written, what area of Philosophy it addresses and other philosophers that it could be responding to.

  • Philosophical writing is quite unique in that it usually offers an internal dialogue. Not dissimilar to the back-and-forth of philosophical debate, the text will often have the author refuting and defending his own theory all in the same work. This is to be expected – philosophical thinking isn’t straightforward! So, when you’re reading, don’t be disheartened if you don’t understand something on the first go. Often, rather than dwelling on that same paragraph over and over again, it is better to carry on reading and come back to it later. Sometimes finishing the text and having an overall picture may clarify any issues you were having earlier on.

To read more about Alessandra’s process, click here.

Planning and Writing:

According to Professor of Ancient Philosophy, Lindsay Judson, here is what you need to take into consideration when writing a philosophy essay:

  • Philosophical discussions and arguments often make use of very abstract ideas.Including some examples in your essays is often helpful so that the reader can grasp the points you are making. Make sure the examples you use are clear and concise.  Remember, however, that using examples to illustrate your point does not remove the need for arguments in support of it. It is a very good idea to write a brief (100-200 words) abstract of your essay when you have finished it, and to include the abstract with the essay when you hand it in.  If you find you can’t write an abstract, the chances are that the structure of your essay needs work.
  • When explaining an argument in detail, it is crucial to make it clear whether you are endorsing it or merely setting it out without endorsing it: ‘This is because dualism is the only theory of the mind which takes proper account of consciousness’ vs ‘This is because Descartes thinks [or: because someone might think] that dualism is the only theory ...’.
  • Relevance: The essay must deal with the topic set.  Be careful to exclude material which is not strictly relevant, however necessary it may be for you to know.  Essay questions are rarely of the form ‘write down all you know about ...’, so what you say must be a considered and significant selection from what could be said.

  • Sources: All sources ­– primary and secondary – should be cited clearly and precisely.This is usually best done in a footnote.You should give the page number as well as the details of the book or article: this will help you find the reference again if you should need to.The works you refer to should be listed in full, with publication details, at the end of the essay.There are particular referencing conventions for some primary sources (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Kant) which your tutor will explain to you if they are not obvious.
  • It is fine to include short quotations from the literature, to illustrate your point (if you do quote, make sure that you quote accurately and with proper acknowledgment); but for the most part you must put things into your own words: this is the only way to see if you really understand.If you feel the need to quote or paraphrase someone else at length, that is usually a sign that you haven’t understood.
  • Content and structure: The essay should be planned as a whole, not formed as a collection of observations.The overall shape will of course depend on the nature of the topic and the approach you want to take to it.But generally it should (i) start with an explanation of the central philosophical issue(s) and how they arise – just why are they problematic or challenging? – and then (ii) proceed to discuss the main ways of reacting to the issue(s) together with your assessment of these: avoid merely reporting what others think without saying what you think about their arguments or claims.
  • What you may think may be a matter of strong agreement, strong disagreement, or something in between – it may even be uncertainty or puzzlement.Do not omit your own views just because they fall into one of these latter categories!By the same token, tutors do not expect you to come up with something entirely innovative in your essay, or to discover a brand-new argument or theory. While we would hardly discourage that, it is generally not what students can expect to do in a weekly essay.What tutors do expect is that you think about the arguments and theories which you find in the reading for yourself, and that you express your views in your own words.Always try to give reasons for your views: avoid mere assertions as far as possible.It is usually a good idea to try to see the issues from the point of view of someone with whose views you are disagreeing: how might he/she respond to your objections – and then what might you say in reply?