Supervisors who attended the workshop were asked for their views on first year students' evaluation of and reference to the range of sources available to them. In their view, students:
- struggle to negotiate a separate and distinctive argument in relation to those of others
- should recognise the need to use sources as a basis for dialogue rather than as 'evidence'
- should work on developing their own ideas and voice alongside a deeper evaluation of sources
- need to make the transition to self-directed evaluation and selection of sources. Their arguments are often structured around sources
- need clarification on new referencing expectations
- are apprentice scholars/writers. They often lack the confidence at first to challenge those already established
The above raised some questions for supervision of first year students:
- How can supervisors support first year students to both develop their own ideas and critically engage with the views of others?
- Understanding the field of critical debate takes time. What are the expectations for first years?
The students' perspective
'I had a relatively good grounding in general good practice in writing essays, especially for exams, and some preparation for research skills in my work on an extended project, but this was fairly limited in comparison to undergraduate work.'
'[...] I was not prepared for the extent to which I would need to generate my own ideas and the lack of guidance I would have to do so.'
'I have made some progress, obviously, but still have no idea how to write a decent Cambridge essay.'
'I feel like I am a completely different student. The improvement is gradual but still radical you fully notice it at the end when you read back your first ever essay! I was pushed but didn't realise it which is good.'
'My sixth-form college did a pilot scheme for the Extended Project. I have found this invaluable preparation and I think that the University should strongly encourage candidates to carry out a project like this.'
'I have learned a lot about literary and cultural theory and how to apply this to primary texts.'