One of the main differences for me between doing a research based degree rather than a purely taught degree is the need to actively participate in academia. With that in mind I’m getting involved with a couple of upcoming University academic conferences. It’s not a requirement to participate in the sense that you’re not assessed for doing so however, like getting involved in student societies or voluntary work, conference participation is part of that “added extra” that helps differentiate you from everyone else with a similar degree to yourself. On top of that they’re very interesting!
The first one is the School of History Postgraduate Conference on 20th May 2014. This is run every year to give Masters and Doctorate level students the opportunity to talk about their research in a friendly and supportive environment. I’m part of the committee for this and I’ll be chairing a panel too (which feels a little daunting to be honest). I might even give a paper although being quite early in my research so I’m not sure I have anything interesting to say yet.
The second is the Myths in Culture conference on 29th May 2014. I’m going to be submitting a paper for this as the broader scope allows me to draw on other things I’ve written about in the past. My paper will be looking at the mythology of Islam that developed in Christian thinking during the period of the Crusades and considering how much of that mythology has permeated into the present day.
One thing I have found is that there are some wildly divergent ideas about what a good conference presentation is. I’m quite comfortable with presenting to large rooms full of people; that’s part of my day job. I know what a sales pitch looks like, what a training course looks like even what a proposal to a bunch of decision makers looks like but I’m not sure what an academic paper to a conference looks like. I’ll be garnering opinions from academics here at Leicester about what makes a good paper however I suspect, given the broad spectrum of specialisms and personalities, this will generate a many different and sometimes conflicting perspectives. Ultimately, like my research, I guess I’ll have to find my own way. Having said that I find I learn best by doing and small University conferences are the perfect place to try stuff out on a friendly audience.
If you’re a History masters or doctorate student why not get in touch with the conferences and submit a paper? Failing that why not come along and listen to some of the papers; with the exception of mine, you might even learn something interesting!