Thesis Research

Eleanor Lam
Created: 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Last modified: 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Many of the humanities subjects will have to write a thesis for their final degree. This thesis can be hard, and coming up with an idea can be very challenging. However, research can be enjoyable. If you study subjects like History, this thesis will likely involve at least one trip to the archives.

I was fortunate to be able to go abroad for my thesis research. I went to the US to visit the Yale University Archives on the Nanking Massacre as I am researching members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. Going abroad can be a very fun adventure to make delving into archives a more enjoyable experience, but it can also be very useful as it opens up extensive collections of sources that are not accessible online or in the UK.

There is a financial aspect to going abroad to do thesis research. I was very grateful to have a grant from my college, which helped me afford the research trip. Many colleges will have undergraduate dissertation funds which you can apply for and will facilitate going abroad for research, so I recommend looking around your college department and inquiring about funding for research. I became aware of the undergraduate funding for dissertations through an email sent to students by my college advertising the funding, but it was also mentioned to me by students in the year above who also used the fund for their research. So asking other students on the same course as you in your college can be a very helpful mine of information.

It can be pretty nerve-wracking going abroad for research, especially if you haven’t travelled alone very much, but archivists are generally very welcoming and helpful. Most archives will have a digital catalogue of documents, which I would recommend that you look through before you go and identify which documents you would like to view, in order to maximise your productivity once you reach the archives. It helps to email the archives ahead of your visit to ensure that the documents you wish to access will be available during your visit and to enquire about the process of ordering documents, as archives function differently and have different lengths of time it takes for documents to be delivered to the reading rooms. (The archive at Yale usually took a day for documents to be delivered, so I had to start ordering documents I wished to view a day before I arrived). I would also recommend being very nice to the archivists, as they can point you towards certain documents that you were unaware of, which happened in my case.

However, lots of archives do have the ability to digitalise sources, so it is highly possible that you will be able to access documents in different archives without going abroad through emailing the archive.