Memorising names and dates for an exam

tl;dr: I ‘cheated’ in my final exam.  I took in a crib sheet.  I smuggled it in, hidden in my short-term memory.

The Problem
I cannot learn names or dates, or quotes.  I have known that since secondary school.  One of the first homeworks we got was to learn a very short poem and I could not do it and got a detention for failing to do so.  I dropped English Literature at O level during the final year because I could learn the stories and what happened but not who the people were.  I frequently lose track of who is who in films and books and just enjoy the story, sometimes wondering why someone said or did a certain thing because I could not work out who they were.

Trying to Learn a Poem
In English Language there was a poem, The General, on a poster in front of my desk.  Every English lesson for four years I practised learning that poem.  I must have read it at least 400 times, probably over a thousand times.  I can recite it fairly accurately, but only because it has a story and I visualise that, plus it is timed to match a marching step, which helps get the words in the right places.

Left, right, left right.

“Good morning, Good morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on the way to the line.
Now the chaps that he spoke to are most of ’em dead
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.

“He’s a cheery old card” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both with his plan of attack.

Left, right, left right.

But I cannot tell you who wrote it nor in what year, despite that being clear on the poster.

It’s funny what I can remember.  I know scientific terms based on names such as Boyle’s Law, the unit called the Newton, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but they are not names of people, just words.

In history O Level we did global exploration and the conquest of the Americas.  I am confident I can still re-tell most of the story about the spice islands, piracy, the involvement and achievements of the Portuguese, Italians and Spanish, the discovery of the Americas, trade, some of the adventures, the treatment of indigenous people – all manner of stuff.  But I am not sure what centuries in which this happened and can only recall Elizabeth, Drake, Magellan and – for some reason – Quetzalcoatl.  That meant I could not do History O Level because it is all about names and dates.

A327 was seemingly a history module, but was all about the debate about what happened, not who did what and when.  No need at all to learn dates or names, amazingly, and so that went fine for me.

Consequences for My Degree
So when my tutor – who had been an exam-marker for some years for the module – said one cannot get beyond 65% in the DD301 Criminology exam without inline references in the exam essays, I was gutted.  That would mean a Pass 3 for the module and a 2:2 for my degree and failure to get to do a Master’s as planned.  I need 70% in this final exam to get a 2:1 for my degree.

What I Tried
I had been using Quizlet all year to produce flashcards to help me learn the subject: my DD301 set.  I enhanced that to focus on names and dates.  It didn’t help.

I also used a timeline tool called TimeLine for visualising when things happen and thereby learning the steps between them.  Here is an A327 example I had used the previous year for its intended purpose:

I tried using that to visualise developments in criminology writing to see if that helped.  It didn’t.

DD301 TimelineI asked on the module forum for advice on learning techniques but got no useful advice from the tutors.  The only student suggestion was for Quizlet.  I asked my tutor for advice, his conclusion was I should get the names tattooed onto the inside of my eyelids!  I have a few books on learning, study and revision but they all have generic advice and not how to deal with specific problems.

Searching online for advice got me nothing other than flashcards (for which I was using Quizlet) and reading out loud to a mirror.

So my carefully constructed revision plan of learning standard paragraphs, practising writing essays, laying out the standard arguments and so on all went by the wayside as I spent the entire time trying to learn names and their significance.  It wasn’t working since just a few hours after learning one, it had gone from my head.  This was despite going over them scores of times, some of them for months.  It was the same as The General poem above: I know the subject but not who wrote it or when.

What I Needed to Memorise
What I needed to learn was the names of the authors of five chapters from the text books (each one a multi-author chapter), plus a selection of theorists, what they said, and the dates of publication of their books.  At this moment I can recall Muncie (2001), Talbot (2010) [wrong, forgot two other authors], Mehigan (2010) [wrong, forgot two other authors], Green (2004) [wrong, forgot the other author] and Cohen (some time in the 1960s) but not what they said.  That is the entirety of a year’s trying to memorise them – I needed many more than that.  I had tried to learn 27 names and dates.

The Day Before The Exam
I finally found a solution on the day before the exam, by accident.  I was thinking – yet again – about why I could only hold the data in my short-term memory and why it could not be transferred to the mid-term or long-term memory.  That is, I could spend a couple of hours going through the flashcards over and over again and eventually get almost all of them right, but just another two hours later and I could only get a handful right.  But there’s the answer: use my short-term memory.

So I wrote out a few hand-written lines like this:

Book 1, chapter 1, crime, Muncie, Talbot & Walters
Book 1, chapter 5, corporate crime, Tombs & Whyte
Book 1, chapter 7, state crime, Green
Book 2, chapter 1, justice, Drake, Muncie & Westmarland
Book 2, chapter 7, human rights, Mehigan, Walters and Westmarland

for the key chapters I would be using in the exam.  Any reference to criminal theory and I could add “(Muncie, Talbot & Walters, 2010)” with confidence it would be from that chapter in the text book, or refer to “human rights are contestable (Mehigan, Walters & Westmarland, 2010)” and I’d probably got that right.

I also wrote a number of key concepts and theories:

Michael & Adler, 1933, Black Letter Crime
Tappan, 1947, crime requires a guilty verdict
Quinney, 1970, crime is defined by the politically powerful
de Haan, 1990, crime is a distraction from real harm
Reiman, 2007, Pyrrhic Defeat Theory in “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor get Prison” (vital to learn this one title)
Hillyard and Tombs, 2007, the social harm approach
Whyte, 2009, corporates and governments make laws to protect themselves
Muncie, 2001, “a conception of crime without a conception of power is meaningless” (vital to learn this one quote)

From those a number of arguments can be constructed.  I know the material pretty well, just not who thought it up and wrote it down.

I then hand-wrote those lines out over and over and over again for the rest of the day.

The Day of the Exam
I got dropped off at the exam centre two hours before the 10 a.m. exam.  I sat in Reception for 90 minutes copying the lines out again in an A4 pad, exactly the same, for another six A4 sheets.  At 9:30 I closed my eyes and fell asleep!  At 9:50 they called us in.  At 10:01 I started writing those lines out on the first sheet of the answer booklet from short-term memory.  I then spent until 10:30 writing down every name, date, quote, concept and theory name I could think of, joining them up where I could.  In 30 minutes I had ¾ filled an A4 side of chapters and concepts with most of their names and dates.

I then looked at the question sheet and spent the remaining 2½ hours of the exam actually doing the exam, with my very own hand-made cheat sheet on the desk.  And all perfectly legitimate.

The Result
So I used my short-term memory to visualise about 15 or 20 lines of text and took that mental image into the exam.  It cost me about 30 minutes of the three hour exam but meant I included 11 references which I was sure were correct, plus two more I think were right and a couple more where I said (either Bloggs or Jones, 2001) or (Green and someone else, early 2000s).  I also nearly got the Muncie quote right – I wrote something like “You cannot have a conception of crime without a conception of power” which is near enough, I hope!

I wrote two essays, each with an essay plan, a proper introduction, a critical argument and a proper conclusion.  The second essay referenced the first (since you can’t use the same arguments twice) and came to a conclusion critical of the first essay’s conclusion!  With 11 inline references, a quote and an explanation of the significance of a seminal book on the subject, I am quietly confident I ought to get the 70% I need.

The Outcome
I won’t know for another five weeks…

I have completed my undergraduate degree

Today I sat the exam for the final module of my undergraduate degree.  So that is the first step complete in my career change.

Because of how the degree marking works, if I get 70% or more in this exam (not terribly likely), I get a 2:1 for the degree and get to do a Master’s Degree, otherwise a 2:2 and I’ll need to re-think my plans.

An Ode to Critical Criminology

It helps to know ‘critical criminology’ has its roots in Marxian theory.  It argues social harm—whether by individuals, corporations or states—is a better measure of criminality that simple violations of the law by individuals.  I am currently revising the subject and trying to forget my physical science definition of ‘theory’ and instead try to grasp the social science theories, concepts and themes of the module.

An Ode to Critical Criminology

I’d come to a conclusion:
To eliminate confusion
By dividing up the jargon
I’ll win through.

To aid in my revision
I’ll devise a clear division
Twixt module themes and theories,
Concepts too.

Although I am no sluggard
I’ll be rightly buggered
If I can tell the difference.
What shall I do?

I’ve tried asking my tutor
And searching my computer
But I cannot find the answer
How ’bout you?

I dream of schemes to manage themes,
It seems I’ll scream without a gleam of
Insight to this shite that’s driving me insane.

I’m so weary of ruddy theory.
It’s so dreary it makes me teary.
I cannot fight it – doing so is all in vain.

I have not slept, for this concept,
I can’t accept, it has side-stepped
My mind. Oh, Jesus wept!
It’s all a farce.

With authors we must remember
When I’d rather just dismember
The sodding lot and stick it up
Karl Marx’s arse!

Reflecting on my Open University journey

A222, Excruciating Philosophy, was a pit of despair.  Nine months of painful TMAs and material I could not abide will be the scar I carry from my degree.  Sitting there into the night for every TMA despairingly wondering “Why can’t they just tell us what they want?“.

It wasn’t until five days before the exam that I went to a day school 200 miles from home and found a tutor group of engaged, motivated students being led by two brilliant tutors, and their advice and superb handouts got me through the exam.

“I do think good tutors make such a difference to your outcome and experience throughout.”

It does.  When I did DD101 Obfuscating Social Science the only advice our tutor gave was “Don’t say ‘I’ or I’ll kick your windows in and everything you write must have a reference“.  He repeated it in every tutorial and in every TMA’s comments and never provided anything else.  Loads of people dropped out through the year and I was getting 40% to 45% for every essay and not getting any useful feedback.  For that module I was saved right at the end by a student who also had an IT background who explained how social science is not actually a science and told me how to write social science essays.  He had himself been told that by another student.

I know many people who have said they have had great tutors all the way through.  Some of mine have been shocking and, going by the drop-out rate, those who get them tend not to stay with the OU so we don’t hear from them again.

I have often learned more from my fellow students than from some of my tutors.  That’s why I now go to every tutorial I can.  The OUSA Open Degree forum for was absolutely brilliant for advice, better than Student Support, but they got rid of that.  It’s no wonder people are moving to Facebook for support.

Sadly, I have not enjoyed much of my OU experience and will genuinely be glad when it is over.  The exception has been the interaction with other people, the support from others who have been there before and those who are also struggling, often alone in the night.  I think this confirms that distance learning is not for me.

When I started my OU degree this time around (I also had a go in the 1980s), I saw a few comments from old hands saying it is the students that make the OU, and I did not understand that then.  I do now.

Thank you, my fellow OU students, for being out there and being supportive, I couldn’t do this without you.

MA application done and sent

I have received two excellent academic references from my two Level 3 Open University tutors.  I am very pleased with them.  I’m considering framing them!

I have sent these, along with my application form, to Liverpool Hope University asking to join the MA in Peace Studies starting this autumn.

Well done me.

I’m very excited.  🙂

A template for university essay introductions

An article in the Guardian entitled How to write better essays: ‘nobody does introductions properly’ has, toward the end, a template for any essay that produces an ideal introduction in under 100 words.  I was not convinced.  He says:

Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.

I was going to strongly disagree and came up with an example to prove it, but failed.  I took his template:

Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.

and tried turning it into a very simple (and silly) introduction to prove it cannot be done in 100 words:

I am going to argue that in visual perception black is actually white.  I am going to substantiate this with the claims that black is black, white is white and in between are shades of grey.  I am going to refer to Tom, Dick and Harry who say black is dark, white is light and there is a sliding scale between them.  I will conclude with some thoughts on how reading 50 Shades of Grey will pass some time but it will not clarify our understanding of optical perception in humans.

But that’s only 91 words.  He might actually be right.  His template might be a good one.

Oops, I forgot the “Never use the first person” rule that applies in some subjects.  Second attempt:

This essay argues that rodents in the visual media don’t always like aged pressed milk curds.  This will substantiated with examples from old cartoons, feature films and modern digital cinematography, drawing on productions by Fred Quimby, Walt Disney and Pixar.  Their works demonstrate titbit-laden mousetraps, no dairy products and toy rodents who don’t eat at all.  The essay will conclude that it depends on context but that there is an age to cheesiness correlation, and it might be worth watching some Dreamworks videos for further research.

How’s that for a comprehensive media studies TMA introduction in 86 words?

I’m convinced.  What do you think of this method?

What is the learned journal for peace?

I started writing this in August 2015 and got stuck.

I’ve been wondering something for a week or two.  If I want to do research into alternatives to war, and there is such a thing as Peace Studies, then there must be a relevant learned journal.  The place where relevant articles are published for peer review.  I should have subscribed to it ages ago.  But what and where is it?

Courtesy of Google I see there is more than one. Searches I have tried:

  • “learned journal” “peace studies”
  • “peer-reviewed journal” “peace studies”

Searches I need to do: The OU library.

Results…



Title: Conflict Management and Peace Science
ISSN: Digital: 15499219 Print: 07388942
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
URL: http://cmp.sagepub.com/
Desc’n: A peer-reviewed journal. Contains scientific papers on topics such as: international conflict; arms races; the effect of international trade on political interactions; foreign policy decision making; international mediation; and game theoretic approaches to conflict and cooperation. Features original and review articles focused on news and events related to the scientific study of conflict and peace.
Began: 1973
Frequency: 5 times per year (supposedly)
Cost: One article: £18. Either one issue or one year: £69
Comment: About 5 articles per issue. Only abstracts available online. Looks more like war studies than peace studies.



Title: Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal
ISSN: Electronic: 1911-9933 Print: 1911-0359
Publisher: The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS)
URL: scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp
Desc’n: A much-needed forum for discussion. Fosters awareness of the atrocities linked to genocide while promoting the necessity of prevention. This peer-reviewed journal publishes articles on the latest developments in policy, research, and theory from various disciplines including history, political science, sociology, psychology, international law, criminal justice, women’s studies, religion, philosophy, literature, anthropology and art history.
Began: 2006
Frequency: 3 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 10 articles per issue.



Title: The International Journal for Peace Studies
ISSN: ?
Publisher: The International Peace Research Association (IPRA)
URL: www.gmu.edu/programs/icar/ijps
Desc’n: An educational research journal with articles on the causes and solutions to the social, cultural, and ethnic conflicts in the world.
Began: 1996
Frequency: 2 issues per year
Cost: Free
Comment: All articles are available online



Title: Journal of Conflict Resolution
ISSN: Digital: 15528766 Paper: 00220027
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
URL: jcr.sagepub.com
Desc’n: Peer-reviewed, provides scholars and researchers with the latest studies and theories on the causes of and solutions to the full range of human conflict. Focuses on conflict between and within states, but also explores a variety of inter-group and interpersonal conflicts that may help in understanding problems of war and peace.
Began: 1957
Frequency: 8 times / year, supposedly.
Cost: £17 for an article. £107 for, probably, a year.
Comment: About 8 articles per issue.



Title: Journal of Peace Research
ISSN: 00223433
Publisher: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
URL: jpr.sagepub.com
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary and international peer reviewed bimonthly journal of scholarly work in peace research.  Strives for a global focus on conflict and peacemaking.  Encourages a wide conception of peace, but focuses on the causes of violence and conflict resolution.
Began: 1964
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Cost: £80 per something.  Probably a year.
Comment: Can download a few articles.  Can subscribe to the Table of Contents.



Title: Journal of Peace Studies
ISSN: ?
Publisher: International Centre for Peace Studies
URL: www.icpsnet.org/journal.php
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary approach and aims at promoting peace and understanding among societies of the world in general and South Asian societies in particular.
Began: 1993
Frequency: Quarterly
Cost: ?  I cannot see how to obtain it.
Comment: Produced by the International Center for Peace Studies



Title: Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies
ISSN: 0008-4697
Publisher: Menno Simons College, Canadian Mennonite University
URL: www.peaceresearch.ca
Desc’n: Canada’s oldest and primary scholarly journal in its area.  Distributed internationally.  Publishes broadly on issues of conflict, violence, poverty, just peace and human well-being. Peace and conflict studies holds peace as a value, and peaceful methods as the most desirable form of conflict transformation.
Began: 1969
Frequency: Twice a year
Cost: $US 60 / year
Comment: Can download a few articles from 2007 to 2013 for free.



Title: Peace Studies Journal
ISSN: 2151-0806
Publisher: Central New York Peace Studies Consortium
URL: peacestudiesjournal.org/about-psj
Desc’n: An international peer-reviewed scholarly open access journal in the field of peace, conflict and justice studies.
Began: 2007
Frequency: 4 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 5 articles per issue.



Title: x
ISSN: ?
Publisher: x
URL: x
Desc’n: x
Began: x
Frequency: x
Cost: x
Comment: x


Center for Peacemaking Practice, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University



Now in February 2017 it has just dawned on me to search the OU Library for journals with ‘peace’ in the name where they have the text available online and it is within the last 20 years and in English.  They hold ten items:

Title: Conflict management and peace science (Online)
Author: Peace Science Society (International)
Subjects: International relations — Research — Periodicals; Peace — Research – Periodicals
Publisher: Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications
Identifier: ISSN:0738-8942
Publication date(s): 1980-1999
Opinion: looks good.

Title: Journal of peace education (Online)
Author: International Peace Research Association. Peace Education Commission.
Subjects: Peace — Study and teaching — Periodicals; Peace — Periodicals; Peace; Peace — Study and teaching
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Carfax Pub.
Identifier: ISSN:1740-0201
Publication date(s): 2004
Opinion: looks really interesting and relevant.

Title: Journal of international peace operations (Online)
Author: International Peace Operations Association.; International Stability Operations Association, issuing body.
Subjects: Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals; Political science — Foreign relations — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations)
Publisher: Washington, DC : International Peace Operations Association
Identifier: ISSN:1933-8198
Publication date(s): 2006
Opinion: stuck in the weird OU ‘loop11’ loop.

Title: Global change, peace & security.
Author: La Trobe University. Centre for Dialogue, issuing body.; La Trobe University. Institute for Human Security, issuing body.
Subjects: Security, International — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Routledge
Identifier: ISSN:1478-1158
Publication date(s): ©2003-
Opinion: has some really interesting looking articles.

Title: Journal of aggression, conflict and peace research Elektronische Ressource
Publisher: Bingley Emerald
Publication date(s): 2009-
Opinion: Primarily about interpersonal violence, does have a few articles on international violence.

Title: The journal of peace, prosperity & freedom.
Author: Liberty Australia (Organization)
Subjects: Libertarianism — Australia — Periodicals
Publisher: Brunswick, VIC : Liberty Australia
Identifier: ISSN:2200-3037
Publication date(s): 2012]-
Opinion: Three issues and nothing of interest.

Title: International journal of engineering, social justice and peace.
Subjects: Engineering ethics — Periodicals; Engineering — Social aspects — Periodicals
Publisher: Kingston, Ontario : Queen’s University
Identifier: ISSN:1927-9434
Publication date(s): 2012-
Opinion: Can’t get to it online (it has moved) and it doesn’t look relevant anyway.

Title: Peace and democracy in South Asia .
Author: Stockholms universitet. Politics of Development Group.; Asiawide Network.
Subjects: Peace — Periodicals; Democracy — South Asia — Periodicals; South Asia — Periodicals
Publisher: Malaysia : Asiawide Network
Publication date(s): c2004-
Opinion: three issues.  Cannot see anything immediately relevant.

Title: Performance and accountability report
Author: Peace Corps (U.S.)
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.) — Periodicals; Peace Corps (U.S.)
Publisher: Washington, DC : Peace Corps
Identifier: ISSN:1930-1251
Publication date(s): 2004-
Opinion: Useless, broken link.

Less conventional postgraduate peace degrees

In a discussion about transferability of degree modules, it got me thinking about the history of universities and how 900 years ago one could switch between Bologna, Paris and Oxford universities willy-nilly because they offered the same curriculum.  Now it is really hard to get one university to give credits fro study in another even in the same country.  Division and protectionism, even in education.

Anyway, international peace degrees.

The University for Peace or UPEACE is (according to Wikipedia) “an intergovernmental organization with university status established in 1980 and based Costa Rica“.  I have looked at it before and eliminated it primarily on not having $US15,000 and partly because of lack of recognition for the qualification.  I also wasn’t too impressed with the course content.

The United Nations University or UNI is (according to Wikipedia) “the academic and research arm of the United Nations, established in 1973.  Based in Tokyo, Japan, has since 2010 been authorized to grant degrees. It provides a bridge between the UN and the international academic, policy-making and private sector communities.”  Most of its programmes seem to be about international development with the exception of the Institute for Sustainability and Peace Tokyo (Wikipedia) (their web site is down as I write this).  Even their Master’s Degrees are about the environment, sustainability and public policy rather than peace.  So, no conflict prevention type degrees.

Both are dead ends for me.

First Level 3 module chosen

After my experience this past academic year, there is no way I am doing more than 60 credits at once at Level 3, that is, full-time study while working.  The year saved is not worth the stress, the loss of value-for-money from skipping material, the lost opportunity from not having time to read around the subject nor the impact on the grade.  And at Open University Level 3, it’s all about the grade since that is most of the final grade weighting.

I was going to do A333 Key questions in philosophy but my experience of A222 Exploring philosophy has put me off.  It was not what I thought it would be.

I had also planned to do DD301 Crime and justice as it includes ‘trans-national policing, international criminal courts and universal human rights‘ but those are only a minor part of the syllabus.  Also, it is intended for those going into ‘crime prevention and conflict resolution‘ (amongst other things) and my desired career is in conflict prevention.  Similar, but not the same thing.  I’ll need to have another think.

I downloaded the list of all the 107 Level 3 modules available to me and went through each module in turn, deciding afresh if I wanted or needed to do it.  A day’s work turned that into a shortlist of 12.

So many things to consider:

  • When does the module first run?  (DD317 Advanced Social Psychology should have started this October but will be October 2017 and DD311 Crime, harm and the state in October 2019 which is one year too late for me to do it.)
  • When does the module cease to be available?
  • 30 credits or 60 credits?
  • Does it have an exam?
  • Is there team work?  (No thank you.  I’ve carried others before, and discovered you don’t get any thanks for doing so.  A shame, as that has put me off S382 Astrophysics which I really fancied.)
  • Will it help my career?
  • I only have 120 credits left (or 150 if I’m devious and willing to add another year by doing 30, then 60 then 60).
  • Which 60 credits I want locked into the 300 credits that make up the open (non-honours) component.  (What a weird rule.)
  • Whether I want a name degree (that was a realistic option until A222 put me off philosophy).
  • Will I enjoy it?  (I can’t excel at something I do not enjoy.)
  • Ought I to do it for my career?  (Peace Studies.)
  • Will I learn something useful?

I really fancy S350 Evaluating contemporary science as it would be interesting, challenging and probably very useful to me.  One is expected to research, produce and present a scientific paper as practice for being a real scientist!  I could do something on sensor reliability in unmanned ground vehicles (or autonomous fighting machines, multi-function utility vehicle, warbots, kill-bots, autonomous drones, call ’em what you will) or the environmental impact of war in an oil-producing region.

But, it is 30 credits and I have talked myself out of the other 30 credit modules.  I’ll re-consider it this time next year.

I think I have settled on which one to do next, A327 Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity, mostly because it will look relevant on a Master’s Degree application and because it ought to be relatively easy for me.  I’ve been informally studying war and how & why it happens for decades, so those parts ought not to be too alien.  However, although the title sounds relevant, I’m not terribly interested in war in history as a subject of study because that has changed nothing.  My interest is evidence-based peace process research.  But, I shall use it as a corridor of doorways to other paths to study.

Risk: what will be new to me is that it is a history module and I’ve never done one of those.  I wonder what new skills and methods I will need for that.

I’ve bought and downloaded the A327 exam paper for 2015 and it asks for “Write a commentary on the following primary source extract…” but I do not know what a ‘commentary’ looks like.  It also says “Answer the following thematic question” but what is a thematic question and what is special about how one answers one?

I have asked those queries on the Arts & Humanities forum and I hope somebody understands.  I should probably ask it on the Open Degree forum – the polymathic folk there might understand my concern better.

Meanwhile I can do advance reading by getting the set book and by going through the OpenLearn material that has been produced based on this very module.

First Level 3 module chosen

After this year’s experience, there is no way I am doing more than 60 credits at once at Level 3.  The year saved is not worth the stress (for real: sleeping disrupted, home life disrupted, poor skin, social life ceased completely, et al), the loss of value-for-money from skipping material, the lost opportunity from not having time to read around the subject nor the impact on the grade.  And at Level 3, it’s all about the grade.

I was going to do A333 Key questions in philosophy but my experience of A222 Exploring philosophy was so bad (I can’t be confident I’ve even passed the exam) that it has put me off.  This may be unfair on the module as the experience I had visiting another group’s day school at the end of the year was very different from my experience up to that point: this was a large group of engaged students who knew the subject well, discussing how to tackle questions with tutors who were focussed and challenging and who provided excellent hand-outs.  If I could move to Edinburgh, I would probably do A333.  But I can’t.  So I won’t.

I had also planned to do DD301 Crime and justice as it includes ‘trans-national policing, international criminal courts and universal human rights‘ but those are only a minor part.  It is intended for those going into ‘crime prevention and conflict resolution‘ and my desired career is in conflict prevention.  Similar, but not the same thing.  I’ll need to have another think.

I downloaded the .HTML file of all the 107 Level 3 modules on the Module Finder available to me and turned it into a table and went through each module in turn, deciding afresh if I wanted or needed to do it.  A day’s work turned that into a shortlist of 12.

So many things to consider:

  • When does the module first run?  (DD317 Advanced Social Psychology should have started this October but will be October 2017 and DD311 Crime, harm and the state in October 2019 which is one year too late for me to do it.)
  • When does the module cease to be available?
  • 30 credits or 60 credits?
  • Does it have an exam?  (My recent bad experience has made that a deterrent.)
  • Is there team work?  (No thank you.  I’ve carried others before, and discovered you don’t get any thanks for doing so.  A shame, as that has put me off S382 Astrophysics which I really fancied.)
  • Will it help my career?
  • I only have 120 credits left (or 150 if I’m devious and willing to add another year by doing 30, then 60 then 60).
  • Which 60 credits I want locked into the 300 credits that make up the open (non-honours) component.  (What a weird rule.)
  • Whether I want a name degree (that was a realistic option until A222 put me off philosophy).
  • Will I enjoy it?  (I can’t excel at something I do not enjoy.)
  • Ought I to do it for my career?  (Peace studies.)
  • Will I learn something useful?

I really fancy S350 Evaluating contemporary science as it would be interesting, challenging and probably very useful to me.  One is expected to research, produce and present a scientific paper as practice for being a real scientist!  I could do something on sensor reliability in unmanned ground vehicles (or autonomous fighting machines, multi-function utility vehicle, warbots, kill-bots, autonomous drones, call ’em what you will) or the environmental impact of war in an oil-producing region.

But, it is 30 credits and I have talked myself out of the other 30 credit modules.  I’ll re-consider it this time next year.

I think I have settled on which one to do next, A327 Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity, mostly because it will look relevant on a Master’s Degree application and because it ought to be relatively easy for me.  I’ve been informally studying war and how & why it happens for decades, so those parts ought not to be too alien.  However, although the title sounds relevant, I’m not interested in war in history as a subject of study because that has changed nothing.  My interest is evidence-based peace process research.  But, I shall use it as a corridor of doors into other paths to study.

Risk: what will be new to me is that it is a history module and I’ve never done one of those.  I wonder what new skills and methods I will need for that.

I’ve bought and downloaded the A327 exam paper for 2015 and it asks for “Write a commentary on the following primary source extract…” but I do not know what a ‘commentary’ looks like.  It also says “Answer the following thematic question” but what is a thematic question and what is special about how one answers one?

I have asked those queries on the Arts & Humanities forum and I hope somebody understands.  I should probably ask it on the Open Degree forum – the polymathic folk there might understand my concern better.

Meanwhile I can do advance reading by getting the set book and by going through the OpenLearn material that has been produced based on this very module.