Hints and Tips - 5 minute read
Emily Oakes, OCR History Subject Advisor
The current situation means we’re all in unfamiliar territory, getting to grips with remote teaching and learning has been a challenge for teachers and students alike. I experienced two weeks of lockdown as a teacher before starting in my new role at OCR as Subject Advisor for History (I really am ‘fresh’ out of the classroom!) and I could see the challenges as they were unfolding.
Many Year 12 students are beginning their NEA journey during the summer term. In our current situation, access to resources for students isn’t always easy. Few people have history books at home and without access to their school or college library it can be difficult for students to stay focused and research effectively if they don’t know where to look.
Encourage your students to look at the ‘big picture’ and the wider context of their chosen topic. For example, if they are looking at answering a question on the Chartists, this is the point at which you would get them to read a textbook on 19th century political reforms. But with limited access to school libraries, online options are even more important.
Google Books and Google Scholar are two search engines with a huge amount of free digitised material, much of it written by serious scholars.
These can be useful for gaining an overview and refining a topic. To help with my Chartist topic, the first three chapters of Harvie and Matthew’s (2000) book Nineteenth Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction are available in full on Google Books.
Amazon often allows you to ‘look inside’ a book. Sometimes you can view many pages or whole chapters. Sticking with my topic of the Chartists, I could read the whole introductory chapter of Jeremy Black’s (2002) book Nineteenth Century Britain.
There are a number of online public access ‘libraries’ and one of the better ones is openlibrary.org. Your students will need to register (this is free) but there are many freely available e-books (some with audio). I could borrow Martin Pugh’s (1999) Britain since 1789: a concise history to help with my topic.
Many local and city libraries are still operating online. They have an expanded offer of both e-books and e-audiobooks. If they are not already members your students will need to register to join their local library but they should be able to do this remotely.
Once your students have refined their topics and decided on a question to pursue, it’s an important part of the NEA for students to analyse and evaluate relevant primary or contemporary sources to use as evidence. Most students already find much of their source material online. A great place to start for many common topics is spartacus-educational.com.
The following sites also have huge amounts of source material on many different topics.
Offer your students some guidance here on searching successfully. Get students to search ‘name of topic + sources’, ‘name of topic + primary sources’ and ‘name of topic + documents’. In most instances, these searches will achieve excellent results. Typing ‘Chartists + primary sources’ yielded great results – the first being a set of 14 sources from the British Library.
The NEA also requires that relevant interpretations of their chosen topic are analysed, evaluated and used as evidence in their overall analysis.
Google Books and Google Scholar (along with the other library suggestions above) should be useful for searches for interpretations – particularly if your students are now familiar with some of the more refined arguments to do with their chosen topic. They may even be familiar with key historians too and could use their names within their search terms.
Other websites that offer access to free journal articles may be helpful. It may be worth mentioning that though its free to access the sites, most articles can only be read online for free and there are charges for downloading or accessing some articles.
The following are a good starting point and have book chapters as well as articles. Many come from reliable scholarly journals that are peer-reviewed:
Historiographical essays can be particularly useful for students as they are researching interpretations. A quick search on the Chartists at jstor.org brought up a journal article by Miles Taylor in The Historical Journal (1996) ‘Rethinking the Chartists: Searching for Synthesis in the Historiography of Chartism’ which is a useful overview of interpretations.
We have lots of resources to support teachers and students through their NEA. There’s guidance for teachers in our coursework guide and excellent information and support for students in our independent study guide.
Please let us know how you are getting on with the NEA this year in the comments section below. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @OCR_history. You can also sign up for subject updates to make sure you receive information about resources and support.
Emily Oakes - Subject Specialist - History
Emily Oakes is a new Subject Advisor for History. Emily has 13 years’ experience teaching and leading in history in the UK along with two years teaching at an international school in France. Emily has a BA in Archaeology from UCL and a MA in Medieval History from UEA along with a PGCE from University of Cambridge. When she’s not working, Emily likes spending time outdoors with her family, gardening and reading.