The World Archaeology (A251) research assignment

The final assignment for the World Archaeology course is intended to be something of a research based assignment. This time around you’ve to choose three examples of cultural contact spread over around three or four thousand years and pick out the consequences of those contacts. Yes, that was three or four thousand years. This course covers a lot of ground.

That research aspect means that you can’t fully plan your essay based on what you already know ie it’s quite a different prospect than the previous assignments. What I ended up doing was to draft the conclusion first and use that in turn create a basic template to use for each of the examples that I chose.

The problem with that approach is that it assumes that you’ll be able to find articles to support your conclusion. What you don’t want to end up doing is to have to redo everything after you’ve one or two of your examples written up.

In practice, I found that my framework worked really well for the Pacific diaspora which isn’t surprising as that was the example which could largely be taken from the text book. It also worked well for the Sumerian city-states which was almost entirely research based. Where it fell down was with the Incas which initially looked good but turned out not to be in practice as it didn’t fit well with my original premise. So bad in fact that I ended up having to switch to the Aztecs instead and that worked out perfectly which is surprising for a research led segment.

Lessons learned are that sketching out a conclusion works well and creating a framework from that works well if you have an understanding of the topic areas from which you can choose which is good enough to let you choose those that’ll fit well with your framework. Hence the Incas fell down as I didn’t really know enough about them whereas the others worked almost perfectly.

The other thing to watch is the massive amount of time that a research led assignment can take. I’ve spent easily twice the amount of time on this as any previous assignment down to a combination of time spent looking for the articles to support the arguments and the time spent reading them. Writing it hasn’t taken overly long though I’ve still the tidy-up phase to do before submitting it early in the coming week.

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