MRes and me

Penny Ditchfield tells us about her experiences of studying for an MRes:

An MRes in Modern Languages – pathway in Italian Studies?? Isn’t it all rather serious? Well, yes, I can’t deny that I felt a bit apprehensive in September, clutching my new Campus Card with the word POSTGRADUATE in bold letters, looking at the emails about modules on Research Skills & Methodology, and optional module topics such as Cultures of Fascism, trying not to dwell on the idea of a 20,000-word dissertation – and wondering. These are some of the questions I asked myself – and the answers!

  • Is there too much to do?

Happily, I’ve chosen the part-time option, two years. Time to breathe. I would recommend that to anyone who has an extra year to spare. There is a lot to do, presentations, essays – and that dissertation – but I have above my computer a card with two words of encouragement: NO EXAMS.

  • What about the working in isolation?

You are not of course totally on your own. I know I am responsible for my own research, I am  making decisions about the direction to take, but close at hand is a spectacular support network, staff in the Library, and the Special Collections Service but most importantly, the staff in Modern languages in general and Italian programme staff in particular  –  and especially the interest,  encouragement and guidance of supervisors and Programme director,  with special mention for their patience, when confronted by an over-excited student saying yet again “Look what I’ve just found!”

  • What if I can’t decide on a topic?

I thought I had decided before the course started. I had even started compiling a bibliography. Then the Methodology module involved choosing an item from the Special Collections to analyse. I set aside an hour to read an innocuous blue-covered diary, and dragged myself back two hours later to 2015 and to the assuredness that I had found my topic. An unforgettable moment in an exciting year.

So are there any more questions? Oh yes, plenty – and I’m off to request “my” box of documents in the Special Collections Reading Room and start looking for the answers… but that will be another story.