42.398   Research and Writing Skills   Spring 2009

Professor:  M. Hickey    Office:  OSH 130  x-4161  mhickey@bloomu.edu

Office hours:  T-Th, 2:00-3:30  Wed. 3:30-5:30



FINAL REVISED PAPER DUE BY FRIDAY, 1 May, by 4 PM.  I will not accept papers by e-mail!  You must turn in a physical paper!


Navigation links for this syllabus:

Graded Assignments:

Un-graded, Mandatory Assignments:

Weekly Schedule of Assignments

Regarding plagiarism    note-taking and note-retrieval    

A short guide to endnote citation form



Here. . . we shall preserve the broadest interpretation of the word 'history.' The word places no a priori prohibitions in the path of inquiry, which may turn at will toward either the individual or the social, toward momentary convulsions or the most lasting developments. It comprises no credo; it commits us, according to its original meaning, to nothing other than 'inquiry.'

                                            Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft

What is history? . . . a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past.

                                            E. H. Carr, What is History?



This seminar course focuses on the process of researching and writing history. We will begin the semester by revisiting issues raised in Historiography and Historical Methods (42.298), including but not limited to:

We will then concentrate in greater detail than was possible in 42.298 on:

The majority of the semester will be devoted to completing research on, writing, and presenting your own research paper.

You will design a research project that addresses a significant historical question through analysis of primary sources.  I must approve your topic at several stages of the research and writing process.

The product of your research will be a 20 page paper (approximate length) that poses a clearly articulated research question, explains that question's historiographic importance, and answers that question based on analysis of a significant body of primary sources.


Grading Criteria

You will complete a series of assignments designed to guide you through the process of writing a formal paper based upon original research. These include graded writing assignments as well as several un-graded writing, reading, and discussion assignments, presentations, and one-on-one conferences.

Graded Assignments:

Un-graded, Mandatory Assignments:

The specific tasks involved in each assignment are explained below, as are specific grading criteria for each. I expect you to complete each assignment as directed.  Your papers must be factually correct, employ clear and sound logic, provide appropriate evidence, follow technical conventions of historical writing (including use of source citations), and use clear, grammatical English.


On attendance, missed deadlines, missed conferences, missed oral reports and late papers:


Because of the nature of the course, there will be weeks when we do not meet as a group (we will have individual conferences on those weeks).  Still, it is essential that you attend all scheduled class sessions.  I will consider as excused absences only medical and other emergencies that can be documented.  If you cannot attend class for some reason, I expect you to contact me in advance if at all possible.  Your class participation grade will fall by 10 percent for each unexcused absence.


I have set deadlines for approval of topics for this course.  Your class participation grade will fall by 10 percent if you miss that deadline.


You will be scheduling oral reports.  If you do not attend class and present your oral report on the day scheduled, you will fail the course.  There will be no "make up" reports.  The only exception is for excused absences. 


You will be scheduling individual conferences.  If you do not show up for a scheduled conference, you will fail the course.  There will be no "make-up" conferences. The only exception is for excused absences. 


Each of the paper assignments for this course has a due date.  The grade for any paper will fall by 5 percent per business day that the paper is overdue.  Unless otherwise indicated, papers are due in class during our scheduled meetings.  If you do not attend class, but turn a paper in during that day, or--horror of horrors--if you leave it for me in my mailbox or under my door during our class session (which is unacceptable!), I will treat that paper as one day late.  The only exception is for excused absences.

Failure to complete any assignment (graded or ungraded) will result in failure for the entire course.



Required Text

Richard Marius and Melvin E. Page, A Short Guide to Writing About History, 6th edition (New York:  Pearson-Longman, 2007).


Detailed Descriptions of Assignments

Links to specific assignments:

Graded Assignments:

Un-graded, Mandatory Assignments:




Class participation/Attendance. 

Attend every scheduled class session having completed the readings and other assignments for that day.  Participate in discussion of readings and assignments.  10 percent of your course grade will be based upon the quality of your participation in discussions.  Your participation grade will drop by 10 percent with each missed class session, except in cases of excused absences.



One-on-one topics conference

At this conference, we will discuss the topic of your research paper. You must come to this conference with the following (in writing, typed!):

If you are properly prepared and I approve your topic, then you may proceed with your research.

If you are not prepared and/or I do not approve your topic, then you will have to meet with me again. We will repeat this process until I have approved your topic.

Topic approval is a prerequisite to all further graded activities in this class. If I do not approve your topic, you will receive no grade for any further activities. 


Primary source analysis paper (10 percent)

Locate a primary source document or set of primary source documents related to your research topic.  Preferably, this will be a rather brief document/set of documents, no more than 10 pages long.

You must show the document/s to me and get my formal approval before writing this paper.  If you do not get my preliminary approval for the document, I will not grade the paper.

Once I have approved the document, you will write a 3-5 page analysis paper.  


Header:  The header of your paper must have a correct bibliographic citation to the source (see Marius chapter 8, and especially pp. 191-192).

The body of the paper must have two sections: 

Section A must explain the evidence in the document. 

You should include some background and narrative to set the document into its proper historical context.  For instance,

Once you have answered these basic questions, you must "dig deeper" and analyze the document's content. 

Remember, it is not enough to summarize what the document "says": you must analyze the document!

Section B must explain the analytical process by which you reached your thesis.  Focus in particular on source criticism.  For example,

On the designated date, bring to class 2 copies of your paper and 2 photocopies of the document/s. You will trade papers with two people in class, then read and comment on each other’s papers.  We will discuss your analysis of the documents and your comments on each others' papers. 

On the designated date, turn in your (revised) paper and a photocopy of the document. 

Your grade on this paper will be based on its accuracy, logic, and clarity.



Research proposal with a bibliography (20 percent)

You will prepare a proposal (5-6 pp., not counting the bibliography) that explains the following:

Your proposal must be on the topic we discussed at your conference.  If you change topics without my approval, I will not grade your paper.

Attach to the proposal a typed bibliography that follows the guidelines in Marius (see chapter 8, and especially pp. 191-192). This bibliography must include all primary and secondary sources that you will use in your paper.

Your bibliography must be divided into the following sections:

    I. Primary Sources

    II. Secondary Sources

Your bibliography should be as comprehensive as possible (given your command of various languages and the availability of material).  It is your responsibility to locate sources on your topic.  If I find that there are major secondary sources that you have ignored, or that there are reasonably obtainable primary sources that you have ignored, I will deduct points from your bibliography.  

I will grade your proposal and bibliography on the proposal's logic, clarity, and coverage of the issues detailed above, and on the comprehensiveness and accurate form of the bibliography.  The proposal will account for 50 percent of the grade and the bibliography for 50 percent. 



Presentation of the research proposal  (Mandatory, un-graded)

You will explain your research proposal to the class in a 10-minute presentation.  After your presentation, you will answer questions about your proposal. Presenting your proposal is mandatory, as is attending the presentations of all other students.


Historiographic essay (10 percent)

Historiography is the history of historical writing.  Historiographic essays explain changes in historical interpretation across time or differences between various “schools” of historical interpretation.

NOTICE!  When you read secondary sources, think about how each author's interpretation fits into "groups" or "schools."  Historians often (but not always) are explicit about how their conclusions relate to those of other historians.  Sometimes differences in interpretation grow out of differences in the questions that historians ask or the kinds of sources that they have examined.  Sometimes historians asking the same questions and looking at the same sources come to different conclusions.  As you read, you must give a great deal of thought to the differences as well as similarities between different books and articles.  What questions does each historian ask, what kind of sources does each use, and what does each argue?

Be sure to take notes as you read!  These should include: exact bibliographic information on each book and article; very specific summaries of each author's thesis; references to the sources that each author used; and notes about the relationship that you see between the interpretations that you find in different books and articles.

Before you begin writing your paper, review these notes and compare and contrast the arguments of each author.  What patterns emerge?

SPECIFIC DIRECTIONS:  In this paper, you will analyze trends in what historians have written on your research topic.  You must read all of the most significant secondary sources, then compare and contrast what different historians argued regarding your topic.

In the body of your paper, discuss these patterns of interpretation.  Be sure that you assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each work or school.

You must give proper source citations (endnotes!) to all sources discussed in your paper.  See Marius chapter 8 (esp. pp.187-190).

Your paper must be between 5 and 7 pages long, not counting the endnotes.

Your grade will be based on the paper's logic and clarity, the accuracy of your analysis, and your thoroughness in dealing with the most significant secondary sources.  



Annotated bibliography of primary sources (20 percent)

NOTICE:  This assignment requires that you have finished read your primary sources before writing your annotated bibliography.  It also requires that you have thought carefully about the organizational outline of your paper and how you are going to use the source material.

DIRECTIONS:  Prepare an annotated bibliography of all of your primary sources (but not of your secondary sources).

The annotated bibliography entries must be in correct bibliography format (see Marius, chapter 8, esp. pp. 191-192).

Each individual entry in your bibliography must be followed by an annotation (a summary) that is one paragraph long.  The summary must explain what you consider most important about the evidence in the source, exactly where in your paper you will use the source, and how you will use information from that source. 

Here is an example:


Gurevich, Solomon.   “Pogromnaia volna,” Smolenskii Vestnik, 4 October 1917, p. 2.


This was the first editorial published in Smolensk’s local newspaper that discussed the 2 October 1917 riots in the town of Roslavl’.  The newspaper’s editor, Gurevich, compared events in Roslavl’ to events in other local towns and saw each as part of a “wave” of violence.  Gurevich considered the violence a result of hunger and shortages, but also blamed far left wing and far right wing trouble makers for inciting the crowds.  Still, he strongly disagreed with liberals and conservatives who were claiming that the unrest was a product of too much revolutionary agitation.  Instead, Gurevich argued, the violence proved that more revolutionary agitation and more democratization, because only a firmly established and popular revolutionary government could restore order.  I will discuss the editorial in the third section of the body of my paper, which will focus on how the immediate public reaction to the violence in Roslavl’ changed in the first week after the riots.  In analyzing the editorial’s language, I will point out that Gurevich used his commentary primarily to criticize the liberals.  That will set up my analysis of Gurevich’s 5 October editorial, in which he used the story of the riot to criticize the Bolsheviks.  I then can examine why his view of the riot had changed in just one day.


You must have annotations for all of your primary sources.  In some cases you will have to explain that the source is of no use for your research--be sure to explain why!  (If you have ordered a source by interlibrary loan and it has not yet arrived, you can base your annotation upon catalogue descriptions of that source, if you explain this in your annotation.  But if you have more than one such annotation, you are in hot water.)

Your grade on this assignment will be based on your thoroughness in considering relevant (obtainable) sources, the clarity of your annotations, and your attention to proper bibliographic form.



In-class progress reports (Mandatory, un-graded)

On designated days, you will present 5 minute status reports on your project.  Explain what sources you have found, how these sources are helping you answer your main questions, and the problems you are confronting in your research. These presentations are mandatory, as is attending the presentations of all other students.



Completed draft of  research paper  (Mandatory, un-graded)

On the day designated, turn in a complete draft of your entire paper.  I will not accept late drafts, period.

Do not turn in your first draft! I expect that you will have already gone through several drafts before you turn in your paper.  I expect that you already will have solved basic organizational problems, corrected errors in spelling and grammar, etc.

SPECIFIC DIRECTIONS:   Your completed draft must include the following elements:

An introduction that:

·         defines your main questions

·         fits these questions into the context of the historiography on the topic

·         briefly discusses your primary sources

·         briefly explains the methodology you are using to analyze these sources

·         presents your thesis


A body that:

o   provides historical context and necessary background information

o   is based on extensive analysis of the primary source evidence   

o   organizes this evidence in narrative or non-narrative form, chronologically or thematically

o   presents the evidence in a way that clearly answers the questions set out in the introduction

o   uses evidence logically to build and support the thesis stated in the introduction


A conclusion that:

·         sums up the major findings of your research

·         explains how the answers to your questions relate to historiography on the topic.


Documentation of all quotations, paraphrases, etc., in correct endnote form (Marius ch. 8).

NOTE:  Do not include a bibliography.



One-on-one draft conference (Mandatory, un-graded)

During the designated week, schedule an appointment with me to discuss your completed research paper draft.  

At this conference, I will give you written comments on the strengths and weaknesses of your draft as and suggestions for improving the paper. 

If you make an appointment for this conference and then do not attend without prior notice, there will be no opportunity to "make up" the meeting.


Presentation of the completed research project (Mandatory, un-graded)

You will give a ten minute presentation on your research project. 

Explain your question and your thesis, how your thesis fits into the historiography on your topic, what evidence and methods you have used in your research, and the structure of your argument. Then explain the relationship between your findings and the work of other historians. 

This presentation is mandatory, as is attending the presentations given by all other students.



Completed, revised research paper (40 percent)

Your final paper (approx. 20 pages plus endnotes) must be a complete and revised essay.

You must take into consideration the comments I made on your drafts.

The final paper will account for 40 percent of your course grade. 

Your grade on this paper will be based upon the logic and clarity of your argument and exposition, your use of all reasonably obtainable primary sources, your command of the historiography, grammar and spelling, and your strict adherence to guidelines for source citations. 

 It is due at our final exam session.



Schedule of Assignments

Marius refers to Marius and Page, A Short Guide to Writing About History.


Week I (12-16 January):   Discuss syllabus; discuss nature of historical inquiry, sources and layers of interpretation.

Read Marius, chapters 1-2.


TOPICS CONFERENCE Sign-up Sheet will be on my office door    

Also, using JSTOR to find and read this article for next week: Jeanette Keith, "The Politics of Southern Draft Resistance, 1917-1918: Class, Race, and Conscription in the Rural South," The Journal of American History 87, no. 4 (2001):  1335-1361             


Week II (19-23 January):  Modes of Historical Writing; Reading Secondary Sources for Arguments; Refresher on Locating Primary Sources

Be sure that you have read Marius, chapters 3 and 4.

We will be discussing Jeanette Keith, "The Politics of Southern Draft Resistance, 1917-1918: Class, Race, and Conscription in the Rural South," The Journal of American History 87, no. 4 (2001):  1335-1361--so be sure that you have read it!!

NOTICE!  You should be building up lists of primary and secondary sources for your bibliography.  Start ordering sources right away and get reading!

In class I will give you a document handout so that you can write a practice-document analysis paper.  Be sure to read these documents and write a practice paper following the directions for the Primary Source Analysis Assignment.  We will discuss these practice exercises in class on Week IV.

TOPICS CONFERENCE Sign-up Sheet will be on my office door                   


Week III (26-30 January):  Topics Conferences

You need to find a primary source for your Primary Source Analysis Assignment to show me next week.    Also, be sure that you have the handout documents and  use them to write a "practice" document analysis.  We will discuss these in class!           


Week IV (2-6 February): Analysis of primary sources. 

Be sure that you have read the handout documents and that you have used them to write a "practice" document analysis.  We will discuss these in class!

Be sure that you have read Marius, chapter 5.

BRING DOCUMENT FOR APPROVAL RE. Primary Source Analysis Assignment I'll look them over during the mid-session break give them back to you [approved or rejected].


Week V (9-13 February):   Discussion of your primary source analysis paper drafts; note-taking and note-retrieval.

Bring 2 copies of your Primary Source Analysis Assignment to class to distribute for discussion.  Your re-written assignment will be due next week!

Read the linked "handout" "note-taking and note-retrieval."

Schedule Proposal Presentations (sign up in class)

Work on your proposal presentation!  And keep reading your sources!


Week VI (16-20 February):   Proposal Presentations.

Primary Source Analysis Assignment due IN CLASS!             

Work on your written Research Proposal Assignment and Bibliography                 

Keep reading your sources!


Week VII (23-27 February):  Proposal Presentations.  At the end of class we will discuss the Historiographic essay assignment. 

Research Proposal Assignment and Bibliography due IN CLASS!

Read Marius chapters 6-7.  Then read chapter 7 again.

You should plan on finishing reading your secondary sources by start of next week!



SPRING BREAK:  28 February-8 March 


Week VIII (9-13 March):  No class sessions. (Conferences by appointment)

Write your historiographic essays!

You should be reading your primary sources by now--get to it!


Week IX (16-20 March): In-class mid-term progress reportsAt the end of class we will discuss Annotated Primary Source Bibliography Assignment

Historiographic essay due IN CLASS.


Week X (23-27 March):   No class session.  (Conferences by appointment)

You should be finished reading your primary sources by the end of this week!


Week XI (30 March-3 April):  In-class mid-term progress reports. At the end of class we will discuss mechanics of paper drafts and source citations.

Annotated Primary Source Bibliography Assignment due IN CLASS.

Be sure to read Marius chapter 8.  And you might want to re-read chapter 7...

Schedule your Draft Conferences!! (sign-up sheet on my office door) 

Your Completed research paper drafts are due next week, so you had better be writing!


Week XII (6-10 April):  No class session.  (Conferences by appointment.)

Completed research paper drafts due in my office by 5:30 on Weds.                


Week XIII (13-17 April):   Draft Conferences


Week XIV (20-24 April):  Project Presentations


Week XV:   Finals Week:  THE  FINAL REVISED PAPER is due at our scheduled final exam session!