Personal Investigation

What is the Personal Investigation?

The Personal Investigation is a 4,000 word essay, which must be entirely your own work and the bulk of which will be completed in your own time. It is a great opportunity to explore a topic that you are familiar with in more depth, to investigate an entirely new area, or to consolidate your understanding of an outline paper topic.

Advice on completing the Personal Investigation

Selecting a topic

  • Your topic must not be linked to your Year 13 Special Subject – you should check with your teacher what they intend to cover
  • Your topic can be related to what you have studied in your Outline papers
  • This is a great opportunity to focus on your favourite period in history, or to explore new ground
  • It is better to avoid topics which cover a very long historical period (depth is preferable to breadth)

Selecting a question

  • The following question formulations will encourage a balanced argument, analysis and critical evaluation: ‘how far/to what extent/how important/how successful’; or ‘how convincing is the argument/how accurate is the view/how valid is the judgement’.
  • Your title should be in the form of a question (avoid the words ‘Assess, Account for, Explain’)
  • It is wise to avoid conspiracy theories (e.g. identity of Jack the Ripper, assassination of JFK)
  • A title with a ‘why’ can work but can, rather too easily, lead to a list of reasons (How is Elizabeth I’s decision not to marry best explained?’ is better than ‘Why did Elizabeth never marry?’)
  • Particular care needs to be taken over military subjects where candidates can all too readily be led away into descriptive accounts of campaigns or battles rather than examining explanations for success or failure.
  • Once you have chosen a question you need to complete an Outline Proposal Form. This must be done electronically and submitted by Thursday 14th April. Your Proposal Form should include bullet points of main themes and a potential bibliography – see example.

Further guidance

    • Supervisors must NOT take in any drafts of part or whole of the PI for marking or correction (it must be the candidates own work and a declaration will be required to that effect)
    • Supervisors can read essay plans and discuss your work/listen to short sections of your writing
    • Pupils should not ask their friends and/or relatives to check through their work (this might lead to disqualification)
    • Pre-U Personal Investigation Guide

Deadline for proposal:

14 April 2016 – Complete Proposal (see below)

Content of the Proposal
The Proposal must:

      • Contain your question – preferably framed as ‘How far’;
      • Outline the debate on the topic (preferably in one substantial paragraph with two sections structured as ‘on the one hand… On the other hand…);
      • Identify your initial bibliography;
      • Identify your special subject.

Approximate timescales

Before Summer Holidays – detailed plan

October half term – 1000 words

Christmas – Full Draft

Early March 2017 – Final Deadline

Essential Documents

Proposal form

Bibliography Guide

Finding Sources

Potential topic areas

A useful list of potential topic areas can be found in the Teacher Guide for Pre-U because it lists all the outline paper topics and subtopics: 9769_History_Teacher_Guide_2016-2018

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