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Personal Studies

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#1 Heather

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 10:27 AM

As I am in year 12 and wanting to continue with History to A2, we have been asked to think and consider what we'd like to do for our Personal Study, when we return in september.... I'm thinking of maybe someone in the monarchy or an event within the early history.....

I have heard that votes for women / martin luther king are very popular and many people have done theirs on these two topics.....

Just wondered what other students are considering or have done theirs on in the past...?

#2 ktjoanna

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 01:38 PM

I am also considering taking on history for A2 and the topic i will be covering are the Nazi rise to power etc... and will look at the career of Robert Peel...

The germany topics have been particularly interesting and i did them for gcse too... Another topic that i found was interesting was the history of medicine...:wub:
The MLK topic would be very intresting and enjoyable and this has been of particular interest of mine too along with the blizt...

What are the other options that you have? ^_^

#3 Heather

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Posted 29 June 2004 - 11:41 AM

Hello Me again....

Can anyone else tell me what they did for their A2 Personal Study or are thinking to do......? I'd like to do mine on the monarchy or a specific Queen/King. But not sure what time period yet.

We are thinking about themin the last three weeks of term, then during the summer we will need to start our research.

Heather x

#4 Mrs Faithorn

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Posted 29 June 2004 - 12:11 PM


At this stage of the term I think many/most A Level History students will be doing the same as at your school so if you are interested in seeing what Topics others in the same situation have chosen then it's worth keeping an eye on posts in the 16+ section as well as replies in this thread.

If you look at the following posts in the 16+ section you will see what others are choosing for their A2 Personal Studies.
American War of Independence
Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust
The Reign of Terror (French Revolution)

I am not sure whether you have previously mentioned which Exam Board you are doing but each one has slightly different requirements for Personal Studies/Coursework. If you are finding it really difficult to make a choice then perhaps it would be a good idea to have a chat with your own teacher. S/he knows you best and also what resources are readily available in your School/College Library/Local Library etc.

Edited by Mrs Faithorn, 29 June 2004 - 12:38 PM.

#5 Heather

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Posted 29 June 2004 - 01:50 PM

The board I'm on is AQA.

I'll have a look in the 16+ section.

Thank you x

#6 Mrs Faithorn

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Posted 29 June 2004 - 03:56 PM

I am not sure whether your teacher will yet have given you a copy of the following AQA Guidance Notes, but I am posting them here (even though they are lengthy) so that you are fully aware of what the Board advises and requires. Forgive me if you already have seen it.

So far you have indicated that you might be thinking of writing about "a monarch". I don't know what your teacher thinks of this but in my opinion that would not be a good choice since the reign of any one monarch is going to be far too broad a topic for a piece of work like this. You really do need quite a sharp focus for the question you set yourself. I see that the Board permit you to choose a question which arises out of one of the periods you study (as well as allowing you to choose something entirely different) - so that could be something worth thinking about.

I really would discuss all this with your own teacher though. S/he is really the person best placed to advise you and will be responsible for supervising your work

Starting on Page 150 of the AQA AS and A2 Subject Specification for History it says the following about the A2 Personal Study.

Guidance Notes to Candidates for the A2 Study

The writing of a Personal Study, carrying 20 per cent of the total marks, is included to give you the opportunity to investigate an historical issue or problem of your own choosing in greater depth than would be possible in a normal essay.
These notes are intended to help you. Study them carefully.

Choosing an issue to investigate
(a) This is of critical importance. You should start to think about it as early as possible in your course and talk it over with your teacher. Before making a final choice, bear the following in mind:
(i) it should be an issue that interests you;
(ii) the issue may arise from the chronological period(s) studied or from outside them, provided that it is concerned with general issues, or themes, or states
comparable with these studies; (iii) you must be able to find sufficient information on it from your school or local library or other sources available to you;
(iv) it must be manageable – big enough to be completed in 3000 words (2500-3500 words as the normal parameters), excluding the Plan and Record of Procedure and the Appendix, but not so big that you are limited to a superficial survey in which you cannot show your ability to use evidence, undertake analysis
and evaluation, and make historical judgements;
(v) if there are lots of books available for your Personal Study investigation, it may be that you are considering an issue which is too general for you to demonstrate your skills of investigation, understanding and
communication. These, after all, are what the examiner is looking for. The choice of an issue is most important. Consult your teacher before
making a final choice.

(b) There are many ways to approach the Personal Study and there is a wide variety of sources that can be used.
Suggestions can be discussed with your teacher.
Alternatively, you may have your own ideas which may be just as acceptable. If you wish to base your study on a military issue or a particular individual in history you must discuss with your teacher the possible difficulties these can create for you.

Sources of evidence
As you will be required to compile a list of books, articles and other sources of evidence that you have used, it is sensible to find out what is available before you start. If your Personal Study is based on a foreign state, there is nothing to stop you using foreign language texts, if you can read them but, quotations should be translated into English.

You can use other people’s personal memories or recollections as the basis of your Personal Study so long as you indicate your sources, and submit your tapes, if appropriate, along with your Personal Study when it is presented for assessment. In the same way, you can use evidence from a television programme or film. Maps, diagrams and statistics can also be included as long as they relate to the text.

If you find that your local library does not have a copy of a particular text you need, bear in mind that it takes time to order a copy through the inter-library loan service. It is your responsibility to ensure that your work is completed on time. Therefore, if a long delay is likely to occur, it may be best to think again about your Personal Study.

Submitting your Personal Study Outline Form
You must include:
(a) your proposed title, which will be in the form of a question,and your plan (a short paragraph), in which you offer brief initial development of your ideas. It is important to phrase the question in a way which will indicate a specific focus for
analysis and evaluation. Questions which begin with ‘To what extent’ or ‘How far’ etc. must be used rather than those beginning with ‘What’ or ‘How’; your supervising teacher will guide you away from titles which begin in this way because
they will encourage a narrative or descriptive approach.

Remember, AQA wants to assess your ability to analyse and evaluate by you presenting arguments and making judgements. These are the higher order skills you should be aiming to display.

(b) precise details of the sources you intend to use – titles of
• books
• newspapers
• articles
• other materials, e.g. web pages.

Starting an Investigation

Your chosen issue must be in the form of a question. This will help you to narrow down an issue by avoiding too much narrative and allow you to present evidence and draw conclusions based upon it.

Start with the general and move to the particular: get a sense of the general content by reading standard text books before focusing on the particular issue which interests you. If your Personal Study is based on Stalin’s Russia, for example, you might start by investigating Stalin’s ‘control’ of the Russian people and end up with a Personal Study entitled ‘To what extent were Stalin’s methods of persuading Russian workers to work for the good of the state successful?’

Beware of collecting too many facts. You need enough to be able to interpret and make sense of the issue chosen; so be careful not to get too bogged down in pages of unrelated notes. It is better to organiseyour material as you go along.

Remember: your limit is 3000 words, which is only about three times the length of a standard essay completed in about 40 minutes. It may seem a lot, but when you
come to the final writing stage, you will probably find that you have to be brief and concise. To be economical with words is one of the skills of the historian, after all.

Writing your Personal Study

Avoid copying extensively from your sources: use your own words whenever possible. Quoting accurately from a source is entirely in order, so long as you give proper credit in a footnote at the bottom of the page or at the end of the study.

Plagiarism is not acceptable. You must acknowledge all material taken from other sources whether in the form of words, data or illustrative material. If you fail to do
this, it will be regarded as unfair practice and you can be disqualified from all the subjects you have taken at this sitting of the examination.

Do stick to the argument. Padding out with narrative is not a good idea (and is easily detectable). Remember, high marks are not awarded to a wholly narrative study; the qualities of analysis and evaluation are most important.

Appendices may be included to clarify arguments, but not because they are merely interesting to you.

It is advisable to use either ‘sections’ or ‘chapters’. However, be careful not to produce too many or the flow of your study could be affected. Do make sure that every ‘section’ or ‘chapter’ is properly related to the investigation of the issue.

The use of visual material, e.g. photographs, is encouraged as long as
it is relevant to points being made in the text.

Write legibly. You may have your work typed (or do it yourself) but you will not gain extra marks just because it is typed. Remember that your ability to communicate historical knowledge and understanding in a clear and effective manner is part of your Personal Study assessment. Therefore, the Board advises you to:
(i) select and use a form and style of writing appropriate to the purpose of your Personal Study and its complex subject matter;
(ii) organise the relevant information you have researched in a coherent way and use specialist vocabulary when it is appropriate;
(iii) make sure that you have made your meaning clear and that your spelling, punctuation and grammar is as accurate as you can make it.

Keep within the prescribed word limit. Personal Studies of excessive length will be limited in the credit they can receive. Your ability to be selective in the use of material in support of your analysis and judgement is one of the main skills being assessed in this work.


Your Personal Study should be written or typed on A4-size paper and fastened by loose binder into a wallet or folder, with your centre number, candidate name and number printed on the cover. Your completed Personal Study Outline Form should be included as the frontispiece. Your supervising teacher will also ask you to complete the first page of the Candidate Record Form which also must be attached to your work in due course.

Your Personal Study should contain:
(i) a title page giving the title, your name, school or college and
candidate number;
(ii) the Plan and Record of Procedure.
Parts of this should be produced before you begin writing your study, showing an outline of your proposed investigation, the way in which you plan to allocate time and resources, how you intend to obtain your information and how you intend to deal with any methodological problems. If you have to change the plan while writing the study, you should indicate in the Plan and Record of Procedure why you made the changes, what the changes were and what the consequences of making the changes were. You should also provide details of any action you have taken in the light of the moderator’s instruction or guidance.
You should complete the Plan and Record of Procedure by reflecting on how effective your approach has been as you reach the end. Remember, the Plan and Record of Procedure is excluded from the word count for your Personal Study as a
(iii) a list of any illustrations you have used such as maps, diagrams
and statistics. These must be related to the text and the sections into which you have divided your study;
(iv) the investigation of the issue you choose;
(v) the appendices, listing source material and including the
following information:
(a) a bibliography which includes details of all books, articles, etc., consulted;
(b) where appropriate, a list of places visited in connection with the study;
© the names and positions of any persons consulted, with an indication of the help or information received from them;
(d) details of any other secondary sources, including maps, press reports, photographs, etc..

We hope you enjoy your Personal Study work and find it rewarding.
History - Advanced Subsidiary and Advanced, 2005 examination

#7 Mr.P.Smith

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Posted 29 June 2004 - 10:10 PM

I used to teach AQA , personal study.

Think about:

effectively you can do what you like!!!! This sounds wonderful but it is horrible!!!

practical advice....don't pick anything too big...you have a relatively small word allowance.

follow the guidelines from AQA

this means

pick a topic where you can get easy access to a range of good material, not the standard textbooks but specialist texts, articles and primary source materials (even if they are published)

for this reason local studies can be well done....if you have good access to local/county archives etc.

I really hate to say this but old Adolf can be quite useful because of the 4 volume set of sources by Noakes and Pridham (BUT don't forget if you choose this route you will be "competing" with loads of others!!!)

some American stuff is good....there is quite a lot of cold war material on the Cold War International History Project website and the Foreign relations of the US site (key in FRUS into google)...but there is a danger of being overwhelmed by the material....virtually all the US cuba documents are on.....that is a lot of documents!!!

My advice, go local, go social, go talk to the records office


#8 jess11285

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Posted 30 June 2004 - 11:17 AM

for my personal study this year i did "to what extent was the second world war the main cause of china becoming communist in 1949" i found it really interesting.
other people did spanish civil war, weimar republic, the dropping of the atomic bomb, apparthied in s.africa, role of german citizens in the holocaust.

are teacher said not to do MLK and other v.popular topics because the examiners to do get bored of reading the same topics and also they become very knowlegable in them and more critical. do something that really interests you because your going to have to spend a lot of time on it!

#9 Mrs Faithorn

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Posted 30 June 2004 - 01:03 PM

Thanks for this, Jess. Very good advice I think.

#10 Mr.P.Smith

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Posted 30 June 2004 - 06:00 PM

Witchcraft was really popular at my last college.....but that's the countryside for you!

a good one to consider is the impact of the 1920's depression on your locality...lots of historical context...the depression in some areas, expansion in others, how did your area fit into the context? (Buck the trend or go with the flow)...

you can use national and local statistics, newspaper cuttings etc etc

Mr.S. "useful tips for hard working students" :lol:


#11 Heather

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 10:26 AM

Thank you for the AQA guidelines, got them in my class on Wednesday.

A few of my friends have decided to about the Witchcraft in 1600's. Last week I saw the channel 4 history programe about the Great Fire of London and it got me thinking about Charles II's reign. (I also watched the 'glamourised' BBC version about Charles II).

I might do something related to his reign (one particular event maybe), or how he differed from Charles I.

#12 Guest_blixxard_*

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 11:08 PM

Just like to say hello to everyone, will be sticking around for some time (-: Currently moving into year 13 (A2)

I have some input on the Personal studies that may interest you.

For AS level we studied absolute monarchs Louis XIV, Peter the Great. Also did the English side, James I. It was a refreshing change from GCSE history (modern)

Many people in my class have thrown ideas around about Personal study but our teacher (she is truly the history God, you ask her she knows it) has mentioned a key point that is:
Those who choose to do perhaps a modern history subject e.g. rise and consolidation of power by Adolf Hitler will be at as a disadvantage in my class. Due to the fact that other AS students have studied modern history for GCSE, AS and going onto A2. Therefore there will be a bigger “pool” of students that you will be up against – who in theory should know more.

I can see this as a valid point but if the students read enough texts it should not be a problem. Choosing something form the period you are studying would be an advisable option. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

I know one of my classmates has chosen to do the Samurai that is one very interesting topic. I did at one point throw around the idea of the Battle of Sekigahara (1600). However my fascination with Napoleon got the better of me. As I wanted to put a fresh view on a legend that has been admired and disgusted by many authors.

Anyways, I hope I have helped and hopefully this won’t be my first and last post (-:

#13 Mrs Faithorn

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 12:00 AM

Welcome to the Forum! We'll look forward to your contributions and questions over the coming year.

In case you were wondering .... because you are 'new' tonight your first post (and you made 3) is queued for approval by a Moderator. I have deleted the post almost identical to this one and approved the other. From now on, unless your posts give cause for concern (and I am sure they won't). they will appear automatically.

I think you (and your teacher!) make some good points. It could well be wise to steer clear of the more 'hackneyed' topics. However, your work is being measured against a Mark Scheme - not directly against the work of other candidates -and Coursework markers and moderators are required to be totally professional in their evaluation of candidates' work so even if your Personal Study/Investigation/Coursework is on a similar topic to others they have marked it shouldn't matter. The crucial thing is that your work meets the criteria for the top Band(s) - so do study all the advice given about this carefully and make sure you understand what you are required to do.

Regarding your point about choosing a topic from the period you are studying; not every Exam Board permits that I'm afraid. If yours gives you a completely free choice, then there is some merit in doing that. The most important thing is to choose something that really interests you since you are going to be deeply involved with the topic over a considerable period of time.

#14 Guest_blixxard_*

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 12:15 AM

Yeah I accidentally re-posted, as I was not used to forums with moderator post checks.

Our history exam board is AQA who allow complete freedom for students to choose a topic – which has its positive and negative aspects.
I would agree with the point about meeting the criteria. I find in exams I flow a little off course and generally branch out into more ways. Therefore loosing sight of what the question is really asking. I think planning for personal studies is very important. I intend to keep a notebook of points I read and views I might have and just jot them down – Instead of having a flood of ideas when I am writing the personal study.

#15 amez

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 02:15 PM

Hi everyone,

We're starying our personal investigation too. I posted a thread on the 16 + board regarding this. Have a look there. I'm going to do Henry Vlll and the reasons behind his change from Cathlicism to Christianity***.
We went to Birmingham Library yesterday to do some research. I suggest you go to the library, look on the interent, also look in any text books your teacher may have even though they may be for lower years they will give you a rough idea and a background. Thats what I have done.
Oh and the other week we went to the Record Office where we live to look at the archives. We were look at and trying to understand original writings from the 1500's. It was strange to have the actual thing there in front of you that had been written like 400 years ago!!!
Does anyone have any help on how when we start writing it up how to set it out etc.



*** Edited to say:

I'm sure this is just a slip-up in typing, but what Henry VIII did was change England (to some extent) from being a Catholic to a Protestant country. Both are branches of the Christian Church.

Mrs Faithorn.

Edited by Mrs Faithorn, 07 July 2004 - 09:45 PM.

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