Historical Research and Writing (enhanced syllabus)
His 2500.02, Spring 2014, Newton Key
2691 Coleman, M, W, F 10:00–10:50
Syllabus as pdf (brief version)

week 1. Introduction. "Professor Trevor-Roper tells us that the historian 'ought to love the past.' This is a dubious injunction. To love the past may easily be an expression of the nostalgic romanticism of old men of old societies, a symptom of loss of faith and interest in the present or future." Edward Hallett Carr, What Is History? (New York, 1961), 29


week 2. Revising Prose. "Emphasize nouns and verbs in writing. This means both selecting them with care, and making them bear the burden of the sentence. Adjectives and adverbs, thus, should be used sparingly. It is obvious that much gooey writing is due to overuse of adjectives." Robert Jones Shafer, ed., A Guide to Historical Method, 3rd ed. (Homewood, IL, 1980), 211

  • Jan. 22. Lanham, “Action” & “Attention,” chs. 1-2; Assignment 2. The Revision. Revise coursemate's history statement. Due Jan. 24. (full assignments in D2L)
  • Jan. 24. Ogborn, chs. 1, & 3 or 4 (as chosen/assigned). Assignment 3. The Word. Use OED (on-campus link only; off-campus go through Booth Library page) and Google NGram to research four related words from Ogborn, Global Lives, ch. 3 or 4 and write an essay on what these words meant in the 17th century and how the meaning of the subject has changed over time. Due Jan. 31. (full assignments in D2L)

week 3. Words in Context. "Words may have different meanings at different times in history.... Especially when you are dealing with primary sources, it is essential that you know what a word meant at a particular time.... Turn to a dictionary of historical principles, which traces changes in forms and meanings of a word through time. The greatest of these is the Oxford English Dictionary, commonly called the OED. The first edition, originally issued in ten volumes from 1888 to 1928, took fifty-four years to produce, and almost half of its 15,487 pages were written by Sir James Murray, in consultation with thousands of English-language experts around the world." Neil R. Stout, Getting the Most out of Your U.S. History Course: the History Student's Vade Mecum, 3rd ed. (Lexington, MA, 1996), 30-1

  • Jan. 27. Lanham, “Voice,” ch. 3; Presnell, “Introduction” & “Historians and the Research Process,” ch. 1.
  • Jan. 29. Ogborn, chs. 3-4. Online Discussion (D2L); no in-class meeting.
  • Jan. 31. Individual meetings (as chosen) in CH 3725 (my office).
week 4. Reference Works (and using Zotero). "When you go to the library, begin your research in reference books, not in the card catalog." Robert Skapura and John Marlowe, History: A Student's Guide to Research and Writing (Englewood, CO, 1988), 6
  • Feb. 3. Meet in Reference Room, Booth Library. Presnell, “Reference Resources,” ch. 2. Assignment 4. The Reference Work. Use works in Booth Library Reference Room (or online sites–not library catalogs) to establish context of one aspect of early modern global connections. Cite reference works and write two paragraphs on points of context (at least five). Then write a paragraph discussing a possible research question about a specific subject suggested by this context. Due Feb. 10. (full assignments in D2L)
  • Feb. 5. Introducing Zotero
  • Feb. 7. Introducing Zotero

week 5. The Historian and the Thesis. "Learn to spot the thesis.... Pay particular attention the first paragraph of each chapter or subheading, because it should contain the thesis. A thesis is a proposition whose validity the author demonstrates by presenting evidence.... (Newspapers call this a 'lead.')" Stout, Getting the Most out of Your U.S. History Course, 5

  • Feb. 10. Rampolla, “Conducting Research,” ch. 5c; Presnell, “Finding Journals...,” ch. 4. Assignment 5. The Index. Using Historical Abstracts, Google Scholar, and Zotero, draw up a bibliography of at least 12 works on a specific subject (use your context sheet and your readings so far to draw up a list of terms related a topic you wish to pursue for your research) and write a paragraph on what has and has not been covered on this subject recently. Due Feb. 17. (full assignments in D2L)
  • Feb. 12. Use Zotero, and/or EIU History Citation Guide; and/or Rampolla, "Citation Guide," to format a bibliography following the Chicago Manual of Style. Pre-Assignment 6. Write two sentences only on what the central question is for one historian (to be chosen/assigned) and what is the answer to that question for the author. Due Feb. 19. (full assignments in D2L)

week 6. Types of Historians. "Study the historian before you begin to study the facts." [Carr, What Is History?, 26]

  • Feb. 17. Presnell, “Historians and the Research Process,” ch. 1 (again). Assignment 6. The Thesis Statement. Read any article on your list generated for Assignment 5, cite it correctly, copy the sentence you think most fully covers the thesis of the article, then outline subject, thesis, and subtheses of essay in your own words. Due Feb. 28 (full assignments in D2L)
  • Feb. 19. Graff and Kirkenstein, “Demystifying Academic Conversation” & “Entering the Conversation,” preface & introduction (D2L)
    • Pre-Assignment 7. The Book. Select (from the list provided), find, and check out a book from Booth Library, and write a paragraph to present to class about the book using only the material before the introduction (title page, TOC, acknowledgments, preface) or after the last chapter (notes, appendices, bibliography, index) or cover. Describe it, identify the subject, the method/approach, and the argument. Due Feb. 28 (full assignments in D2L)
  • Feb. 21. History Careers Day, Booth Library (register now).
Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)

week 7. Constructing a Problem. "Technique begins with learning how to use the catalogue of a library. Whatever the system, it is only an expanded form of the alphabetical order of an encyclopedia. A ready knowledge of the order of letters in the alphabet is therefore fundamental to all research. / But it must be supplemented by alertness and imagination, for subjects frequently go by different names. For example, coin collecting is called Numismatics." Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher, 5th ed. (Fort Worth, 1992)

  • Feb. 24. Meet in Booth Library, 4th floor lab. Presnell, “Finding Monographs....,” ch. 3. Assignment 7. The Problem/Hypothesis. Using the online catalog, construct a bibliography (at least 12 secondary works available in Booth Library) focusing on a specific research problem relating to early modern Global Lines/Lives. Then using this bibliography, write an essay about a possible research subject. Include a paragraph with a possible thesis statement for your research paper. Due March 4. (full assignments in D2L)
  • Feb. 26. Ogborn, “Into the Atlantic” or “Maritime Labour,” ch. 5 or 6 (as chosen).
  • Feb. 28. Rampolla, “Writing a Research Paper,” ch. 5 (again). Check out and bring to class book from Booth closest to your research interest.

from Luke Clossey, Simon Fraser University

week 8. The Document. "What makes a historian master of his craft is the discipline of checking findings, to see whether he has said more than his source warrants. A historian with a turn of phrase, when released from this discipline, risks acquiring a dangerously Icarian freedom to make statements which are unscholarly because unverifiable." Conrad Russell, cited in Mark A. Kishlansky, "Saye No More," Journal of British Studies 30 (Oct. 1991): 399

  • March 3. Presnell, “Primary Sources,” ch. 6. Assignment 8. The Document. Using EEBO find a 17th-century title page, woodcut/illustration/map, and 10-pages of a printed primary source, and compare and contrast these in a brief descriptive essay. Due March 21. (full assignments in D2L)
  • March 5, 7. Primary sources (to be assigned).
Elizabethan document

week 9. The Newspaper or Serial Source. "[H]istory is to a considerable extent a matter of numbers. Carlyle was responsible for the unfortunate assertion that `history is the biography of great men.' But listen to him at his most eloquent and in his greatest historical work: ‘Hunger and nakedness and righteous oppression lying heavy on 25 million hearts: this, not the wounded vanities or contradicted philosophies of philosophical advocates, rich shopkeepers, rural noblesse, was the prime mover in the French revolution; as the like will be in all such revolutions, in all countries.’" [Thomas Carlyle, French Revolution, cited in Carr, What Is History?, 61]

  • March 17. Presnell, “Primary Sources” & “Maps,” chs. 6 (again) & 8. Assignment 9. The Edited Collection or Serial Source. Identify a set of published papers in Booth Library relevant to your topic; or read a set of online 17th-century newspapers related to your topic. Read the pertinent documents and write a brief paper, with foot or endnotes, analyzing how the published papers relate to the view of the topic advanced by Ogborn. Due March 31.
  • March 19, 21. Primary sources.
(Also, another Library of Congress classication chart)

week 10.The Edited Collection (and using Voyant). "History cannot be written unless the historian can achieve some kind of contact with the mind of those about whom he is writing." [Carr, What Is History?, 27]

  • March 24. Using Online Databases.
  • March 26. Secondary source (to be assigned). Online Discussion; no in-class meeting.
  • March 28. Presnell, “History and the Internet,” ch. 7.

week 11. Developing a Treatment. "Hollywood producers, with millions of dollars at stake, require writers to produce `treatments' of proposed movie plots. These short sketches of the film plot enable both the writer and potential producer to see the story in a nutshell. In the same way, you can test the potential of history paper topic by writing a one-paragraph treatment." [Pace and Pugh, Studying for History, 181]

  • March 31. In-class “Treatment” assignment.
  • April 2. Assignment 11*. The Research Paper. Write a research paper on early modern Global Lines/Lives using at least three types of primary sources, making an argument, and responding to what other historians have said about your subject (that is, using several secondary works for both context and argument). Draft Due April 18; revision due May 2.
  • April 4. Blog post production. Presnell, “Presenting Your Research,” ch. 11

Edward Collier, "Still Life" (c. 1680s)

week 12. Research and Writing. "For myself, as soon as I have got going on a few of what I take to be the capital sources, the itch becomes too strong and I begin to write–not necessarily at the beginning, but somewhere, anywhere." [Carr, What Is History?, 33]

  • April 7. Secondary source (to be assigned).
  • April 9. Assignment 10. The Note. Write a two-page treatment (see handout) about just one part of your research paper which is buttressed by at least four foot or endnotes, including a content note and two from the same source. Due April 14.
  • April 11. Note Quiz I.

week 13. Writing and Noting. "Footnotes exist perform two ...functions. First, they persuade: they convince the reader that the historian has done an acceptable amount of work, enough to lie within the tolerances of the field.... Second, they indicate the chief sources that the historian has actually used. Though footnotes usually do not explain the precise course that the historian's interpretation of these texts has taken, they often give the reader who is both critical and open-minded enough hints to make it possible to work this out–in part. No apparatus can give more information–or more assurance–than this." [Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History (Cambridge, Mass., 1997), 22-3]

  • April 14. Rampolla, “Quoting and Documenting Sources,” ch. 7
  • April 16. Reading & Writing the Early Modern Blogosphere.
  • April 18. Note Quiz II.
coffee <

week 14. Revising. A Checklist for Revising:

  1. “Does what I have written support my thesis?" [If not, change the thesis.]
  2. “Are things in the right order?" [Moving blocks by computer is easier than cut-and-paste. Do it.]
  3. "Is every item necessary?" [Irrelevant words and anecdotes "must be killed."]
  4. "Is any direct quotation, particularly a long one, really essential?" [A good test is whether, and to what extent, you refer to the quote within the paragraph it is placed. If not, usually delete or moved it] [Stout, Getting the Most out of Your U.S. History Course, 68-9]
  • April 21, 23, 25. Paper reports.

week 15. Everyman His Own Historian. "There are battalions of good reasons for continuing to study history, but not even those battalions can or should hide the fact that history is one of the most arduous, complex and simply difficult intellectual enterprises invented by man." [G.R. Elton, in The History Debate, ed. Juliet Gardiner (London, 1990), 12]

  • April 28. Papers reports.
    April 30. Summing up.
    May 2. Papers Due.

Issued by Textbook Rental:

  • Lanham, Richard A. Longman Guide to Revising Prose. New York: Pearson, 2006. [14.424]
  • Ogborn, Miles. Global Lives: Britain and the World, 1550-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. [11.060]
  • Presnell, Jenny L. The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide to Research for History Students, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. [11.000]
  • Rampolla, Mary Lynn. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. [13.625]

Course Requirements Office Hours
My Writing Bundlr (Suggestions for writing; How historians write; etc.)  
  last updated on March 29, 2014