Tutorial Arrangements

In order to improve the effectiveness of our tutorials, it may be helpful to spell out the arrangements I have adopted. Please let me know if anything is unclear or to request a change in this procedure.

A useful guide to reading, note-taking and essay writing is Thomas Dixon’s How to Get a First (Routledge 2004), which has a useful linked website here.

Tutorials are held in pairs or singly, usually in consecutive weeks for full papers and alternating weeks for papers spread over two terms. Please contact me by email as soon as possible to make arrangements. Should you wish to change partners, it is important to indicate this as soon as possible, and certainly by the end of Week 2. Tutorials are held at Keble College, Room WL2 (directions here). N.B. I am not available for undergraduate tutorials outside Weeks 0-8; any left-over essays will need to be rescheduled for the following term.

Once times have been mutually agreed, they can be rescheduled only in exceptional circumstances. If you are prevented by illness or another pressing reason from attending, you should notify me as soon as possible. Failure to advise me of a missed appointment before 9 a.m. on the day of the tutorial will normally result in a charge to your collegeTutorials, like lectures, will aim to finish at 5 minutes before the hour to allow time to get to your next appointment.

In paired or small group tutorials, one student will give an oral presentation on a given subject, while the other(s) will submit a written essay at least 36 hours before. (Please note that written work submitted after this deadline will rarely be read and marked.) The presenter need not submit a full written essay; but if so it must also be submitted 36 hours in advance. Some students  prefer to read out the whole essay, but a well-structured 15-minute summary will be sufficient to introduce our discussion. I then invite the tutorial partner(s) to offer a critique and response, before launching into further comment and discussion. It is vital that you prepare well and participate actively in discussion: only in this way can the tutorial system do its job.

In all cases, it can help make our time together more valuable if at the end of your essay or presentation you highlight a few key questions or points you would like to see discussed.

I usually provide a few written comments on each essay, and oral ones on each presentation. I do notnormally give individual marks for each essay as this can be needlessly misleading or demoralizing or both, given that students often  encounter a steep learning curve in a new paper.  A classed assessment of the term’s work will usually (though not always) be noted on the online end-of-term report filed on OxCort; and the following term’s in-house Collections will also give a good indication of how you are getting on.

In preparing an essay, remember that even if a given topic were to surface in the exam, you are not likely to encounter it in exactly the same form. You are therefore advised to explore widely around and beyond the reading lists provided, in order to get an idea of the subject area and accumulate a useful set of revision notes. If there are books in high demand that ought to be in the Keble College Library, please let me know so that we can have them ordered as soon as possible.

At the same time, every essay should be constructed around a clear argument, engaging above all with the primary texts and with the merits of different scholarly interpretations, critical and textual evidence for and against, and leading up to a conclusion in which you state your own reasoned opinion. Although most essay topics are deliberately framed somewhat more broadly than exam questions, I do attempt to formulate them so as to invite you to identify a key critical debate behind the question, and to adjudicate between different interpretations in light of the evidence. Feel free to use structured headings if it helps you to streamline the argument. There is no prescribed length, but you should normally aim to write between 2,000 and 2,500 words for each essay.

Please get in touch if you have further questions either about these notes or about particular assignments.


M. Bockmuehl

Rev. 1.10.2009