Word-hoard: Medieval Keywords for Students

Undergraduate Research Scholarship project 2020

Department of English Literature

Project academics: Dr Amy Burge and Dr Liv Robinson

Project summary

Who was Boethius?  Were medieval people Catholic?  And just what was a Lollard?   Understanding key terms and concepts in medieval literary culture – as any students who work on these texts know – can sometimes be alienating and challenging, particularly when they are no longer in use. The critical reading that students undertake for their medieval modules often assumes knowledge of these (and other) concepts, beliefs and historical circumstances. 

This project aims to help students of medieval literature to a clearer understanding of primary and secondary texts by creating an interactive set of annotated, ‘key-word’ summaries, plus further reading suggestions.  Word-hoard will build on a core of earlier data assembled by a colleague, but no longer in pedagogic use: the UGRS student will be responsible for updating existing content, creating new content, and helping to design an entirely new online interface for this material, to be made freely available next academic year. 

What you will do 

  • Collaborate with the Academic Leads (Liv and Amy) to review the content and relevance of the existing Medieval Keywords data, selecting all the relevant material for retention in the new tool.
  • Update this material.  This will involve considering the needs of contemporary students, listing new Keywords that we feel might be lacking, then drafting definitions and providing key references.  It will also involve updating existing summaries and reading for keywords that we are retaining, where necessary.  To do this, the scholar will need to undertake independent reading and research online and in the library; discuss their findings with Liv; and edit and draft written content.
  • Finally, the scholar will collaborate in the development of a new HTML tool to enable the Medieval Keywords to go live.  They will work alongside Amy and colleagues from HEFi IT to design the database, with particular emphasis on ways in which we might make the material as engaging and user-friendly as possible for students (e.g. images, audio etc).

Skills required 

  • Basic knowledge of, and enjoyment of, medieval literature and/or culture, acquired through experience of at least one medieval module (essential: this could be either at first-year level (e.g. Discovering Medieval Literature), or second-year level (e.g. The Canterbury Tales; Popular Fiction before the Novel).
  • Good independent research skills (ability to seek out and follow up reading; ability to evaluate academic arguments critically; essential)
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills (essential)
  • Experience of, and enthusiasm for, working with databases, websites, and designing online interfaces (desirable)

How will the project benefit you?

  • You will develop and enhance your independent research skills, which will be excellent training for 3rd year research projects (esp. Dissertations/EEs), and you will receive feedback on your independent research when discussing your findings with the project leads.
  • You will gain experience in evaluating and synthesising critical writing, and in briefly but accurately summarising content, argument etc; and discriminating between headline points and details: this experience would particularly benefit a scholar thinking about a career in journalism, editing or publishing. 
  • You will also gain experience in developing and designing engaging pedagogic tools, as you will draw on your own experiences of studying to inform the creation of the Medieval Keywords content and online interface, and will have the opportunity to consider how best to support future students’ learning.  This scholarship would also, therefore, especially suit a candidate thinking about a career in primary/secondary teaching and/or other forms of public engagement such as museum or library work.
  • You will enhance your knowledge of website design and online technologies.

Where now?


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