Off the Cuff, with Alicia Koepke

by | Apr 19, 2023 | Communities, Off the Cuff

Alicia Koepke is a fourth-year History and Medieval & Medievalism Studies major with a minor in English hoping to do an MA in history in the future. She has worked as a Copp Scholar student research assistant at LCSC since October 2022, and has enjoyed learning a great deal about Montreal during the Second World War through her research with the Montreal Gazette, providing supplementary research for professor emeritus Terry Copp. She is also working as a teaching assistant for a first-year medieval studies course and have really enjoyed re-learning some of the material there and discussing readings in tutorials. As for what the future holds, she would like to continue to pursue the study of history and perform research in some capacity. 

Her favourite historical studies are in anything related to the First and Second World Wars, family life and culture in the Italian Renaissance, and life in the ancient Mediterranean (particularly Roman, Greek, and Egyptian culture). She has also come to love the social side of military history, specifically how culture and societies shaped warfare. In her spare time, Alicia loves to read on topics ranging from history to fantasy, and is slowing trying to work through some of Tolkien’s lesser-known stories from Middle-earth.  

What field of Canadian history are you most interested in and how has this influenced your research topic?

I am most interested in the World Wars, specifically the social side of military history (what it was like on the home front and for soldiers when they were not on the frontlines), so I was very excited when I was paired as a Student Research Assistant with Terry Copp who is working on a book on Montreal during the Second World War.  

What inspired you to write about your research topic and what contribution do you hope to make to your area of research? 

While I am not currently the one writing about this topic, I do hope that the research work I have been doing will be useful in fleshing out Prof. Copp’s book on Montreal so I guess that would be my first contribution. Going further than that, I hope to do my MA in History on the Second World War and am especially interested in the German war and post-war experience which is an area of study not usually covered in English-language based academia. 

What part of your argument changed most during the writing process, and how has this impacted how you think about the final project?

I did not have an argument going into this research as I am simply looking at events in Montreal during the second world war (primarily sifting through the Montreal Gazette to get a sense of what sort of an impact various events had on the city). But I sure have learned to streamline my note-taking and figuring out what headlines and editorials are actually relevant. 

What research and writing tips do you find have helped you the most during your studies?

When it comes to researching, my best advice is to “start somewhere.” If you’re just starting to delve into a topic, it can feel overwhelming but find one relevant article and go from there—use its bibliography to find some of your next sources. As for writing, again very simple advice: “write something.” It doesn’t have to be great; it doesn’t even have to be good, but you can’t make a vase without clay so worry about turning it into a piece of art once you actually have something to work with. 

What activities or hobbies have best helped you destress after a long day of writing?

I love reading history or fantasy books, journaling, listening to music, watching comedies on Netflix, playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, or going on long evening walks. But sometimes the best way to destress is honestly a good nap. 

What advice do you have for others who are also working on history research?

I don’t feel like I have one specific piece of advice for anyone because everyone approaches their research and their topic differently and that’s what I love so much about academia. So, I’d simply say this: fall in love with your topic, make sure you take enough breaks, and remember that you got this. 

Off the Cuff is an interview-style series which explores the research of early-career academics with ties to the Laurier Centre for the Study of Canada. The series allows scholars the opportunity to present their research to a wider online audience and to express the goals and challenges that they see in the field of Canadian History today. 

Series Editor: Kyle Pritchard