Over the course of the MSt in Medieval History we are assessed on three papers: an essay on Approaches to Historiography (coming out of our core module in Michaelmas Term), another essay based on our optional module in Hilary Term, and then of course the dissertation. The first two are both due the first day of Trinity Term, while the dissertation is due the last Friday in August. In order for examiners to be assigned to each paper (and, I suspect, to make sure we’re all somewhat on track), we students have all been required to turn in an official-looking form to the History Faculty with our chosen title for each paper by noon on Friday of Week 6, Hilary Term.
Easier said than done if you haven’t picked your topic yet . . .
Actually, my historiography paper is already well into the draft stage (or it was, before I tore it into shreds again), and my dissertation title is still pretty much what I wrote in my application to Oxford. But I’m more than a little stumped on my topic for my optional module on the Twelfth-Century Renaissance. There are so many possibilities, and finding out what can be done with the available material but hasn’t already done by someone far better equipped to do it is an awfully time-consuming process, consisting principally of dead-ends and rabbit trails. You almost have to do all the research before you can decide if there’s anything there worth researching! (It’s the same sort of circular frustration as trying to find your first job: you can’t have one until you have experience, and you can’t get experience until you have one . . .)
So in the end I turned in something suitably vague yet promising like “Intellectual Influences on 12th-Century Court Culture”, likely to cover just about anything I might come up with. Fortunately, we do have leeway to change our titles up until two weeks before they are due, so back to the library I go!