A863-4 Summer Toolkit

If you’re moving from A863 to A864, you may be wondering what you can do in the summer, to get ahead – just a bit – for next year.

Well, you’re in luck. I’ve been plaguing current A864 students for suggestions, and I’ve pulled them all together here. So here’s my Summer Toolkit, full of ideas, reading recommendations and things to do over the next few months. None of them are essential: you may find that a summer of watching cartoons and turning your brain off is more beneficial for you! But if you’d like to do something, here are some tools to give you a head start.






Courses and Events


If you’re able to make it to Milton Keynes, the MA Day is a useful way of preparing for A864, because it gives you a chance to meet Module Team members and current A864 students. It’s also fun! Here’s a review from one of last year’s attendees: https://classicalstudies.support/2018/07/17/a-day-out-in-milton-keynes/.


There’s a free online course, via FutureLearn, called Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World. It starts again on June 10th, and it’s a very useful introduction to some of the A864 material and concepts. You can sign up here: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/ancient-health.


Quite a few people use the summer to take a language summer school. These are usually residential and often require you to give up a week of your summer – so they don’t suit everyone’s circumstances. But if you can manage it, these are a brilliant way of immersing yourself in some Latin or Greek. Check out these comments from A863 students who went to the Durham Summer School last year: https://classicalstudies.support/about/the-ma-page/should-you-go-to-summer-school/.







Here are some reading suggestions. These are books recommended by people who’ve studied A864 this year. Keep checking in for more: I’ll be adding to this list over the summer.


Invisible Romans by Robert Knapp (2012)

Ancient Rome, People and Places by Nigel Rodgers (2008)

Handbook of Life in Ancient Rome by Lesley and Roy Adkins (2004)

Body, Dress and Identity in Ancient Greece by Mirielle Lee (2015).


The first block of A864 can come as a bit of a shock, with lots of heavily theoretical reading around habitus, embodiment and phenomenology, so getting hold of something like the Routledge Handbook of Body Studies and dipping in and out to get some familiarity (rather than understanding) would be helpful.








Here’s some advice from this year’s students, on how you could work on the skills you’ll need for A864.


  • Try both basic and advanced searches in the OU Library. There are videos teaching library skills to follow (these can be found on the Library home page).


  • Spend time practising writing notes by picking a topic, say gladiators’ weapons (or a topic you are thinking of doing for your dissertation – never too early to start collecting sources!), and finding information from a variety of sources, books, journals offline and online through searches, to produce short notes that could be constructed into an essay. A little bit of this over the summer break means you hit the floor running rather than have to get into gear again.


  • File printouts and notes from books alphabetically in a big ring binder: easier to find months later, saves lots of time.


  • Look at the index and bibliography of a book chapter or journal article to see where to go next. Practise this.



  • Don’t assume you have your dissertation all worked out even if you think you have a clear idea of what you want to do. It takes a lot more refinement to narrow it down into a feasible project. So the more time you have for the development stage the better. Start your thinking early: but don’t get too locked into a single idea.


  • Do the block that you didn’t choose during the course, but only if motivated – otherwise it’d be more worthwhile to follow up any leads from your research so far. Which books from the A863 would you like to read in more detail? Are there any leads from your TMAs that you can follow up? Think of all the interesting bits that didn’t make it into your submissions. Practice your writing skills by turning this side research into pseudo TMAs or post them on your blog (and do your referencing too!).