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Research and Writing Skills Spring 2006 42.398

M. Hickey     Old Science Hall Office 130      570-389-4161     mhickey@bloomu.edu

Office Hours: M, W 4:00-5:00; T, Th 2-3:30

Navigation links for this syllabus:

Epigraphs        Introduction      Grading Criteria        Required Texts

Detailed Descriptions of Assignments   

Graded Assignments:

Un-graded, Mandatory Assignments:

Schedule of Assignments

Regarding plagiarism         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:

From roughly mid-semester until the end of the semester, you will devote all of your course time to putting what you have learned into practice, by completing research on, writing, and then presenting your own research paper.

You will design your own research project, which must be tailored so as to ask and answer a significant historical question based upon the use 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 20-25 page paper that poses a clearly articulated research question, frames your inquiry in terms of its historiographic importance, and presents analysis of a significant body of primary source so as to answer that question.



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.

Failure to complete any assignment will result in failure for the entire course.

Graded assignmentsprimary source analysis paper (10 percent); research proposal with a bibliography (20 percent); historiographic essay (20 percent); annotated bibliography of primary sources (10 percent); completed, revised research paper (40 percent).

Un-graded but mandatory assignments: one-on-one topic conference; in-class presentation of the research proposal; two in-class progress reports; completed draft of your research paper; one-on-one draft conference; in-class presentation of the completed research project.

The specific tasks involved in each assignment are explained below, as are specific grading criteria for each. I expect you to completed each assignment as directed in a manner that is factually correct, employs clear and sound logic, provides appropriate evidence, follows technical conventions of historical writing (including use of source citations), and uses clear, grammatical English.


Required Text

Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 4th  ed. (Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005).


Detailed Descriptions of Assignments

Links to specific assignments:

One-on-one topics conference    Primary source analysis paper 

Research proposal with bibliography    Presentation of the research proposal      Historiographic essay  

Annotated bibliography of primary sources     In-class progress reports

Completed draft of research paper   One-on-one draft conference 

Presentation of the completed research project     Completed, revised research paper


One-on-one topics conference

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

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. 

NOTE: 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.


Primary source analysis paper (10 percent)

You must locate and then present me with a primary source (preferably a rather brief document, approx 3-10 pages long) that is related to your research topic.  BRING THE DOCUMENT TO YOUR TOPIC CONFERENCE FOR APPROVAL.  Once I have approved of the document, you are to write a 3-5 page paper that interprets this document.  

The paper must have two sections: 

Section A must present a logical thesis that explains the evidence in the document.  You should include some background and narrative to set the document into its proper historical context, but your main task is to explain what you think the document shows or proves.  (DO NOT just summarize what the document "says"!)

Section B must explain the analytical process by which you reached your thesis.  Focus in particular on source criticism.  For instance, what questions did you ask of the document?  Why did you ask these questions?  What "biases" did you have to consider, both in the document and in your own reading of it?  What are the limitations of the conclusions that you can draw from the document? Why? (etc.)

On a designated date, you must bring two copies of your paper and a photocopy of the document to class. You will trade papers with someone in class and then read and comment on each other’s papers. In class, we will discuss your interpretations of the evidence and the comments that other people have made on you paper. 

On a designated date, you will turn in one copy of your (revised) paper and the photocopied document.  I will grade your paper on the basis of its accuracy, logic, and clarity.


Research proposal with a bibliography (20 percent)

You must 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. 

You will attach to the proposal a typed bibliography that follows the guidelines in Rampolla. This bibliography must include all primary and secondary sources that you have identified related to your research.

Your bibliography should be divided into the following sections:

    I. Primary Sources (subdivided into)

    II. Secondary Sources (subdivided into)

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 75 percent of the grade and the bibliography for 25 percent. 

For the due date, see the weekly schedule.  Your grade on this assignment will fall by 10 percent for every day that it is late.


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

You will explain your research proposal to the class in a presentation that takes less than10 minutes, and you will answer questions. Presenting your proposal is mandatory, as is attending the presentations of other students.


Historiographic essay (20 percent)

As you know, historiography is "the history of how history gets written.Your aim in an historiographic essay is to explain changes in historical interpretation across time or differences between various “schools” of historical interpretation. 

In this case, you will be analyzing the historiography of your own research topic.  This will require that you have completed reading all of your secondary sources, so that you can compare and contrast what each historian has written about your general topic.

When analyzing the secondary sources, think about how each author's interpretation fits into "groups" or "schools."  Very often you will find that historians have formed very clear "schools" of thought on your topic and that the differences between these historiographic positions is a topic discussed in your secondary sources.  Sometimes these differences are based upon the kinds of sources that historians have examined, but that is not always the case.  For each book and article, explain the author's thesis, the types of sources used, its relationship to other historical interpretations.  Assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each work or school. 

You must give proper source citations (endnotes!) to all primary and secondary sources discussed in your paper.

Your paper must be at least 5 pages long, not counting the endnotes.

I will grade this paper on the basis of its logic and clarity, on the accuracy of your analysis of secondary sources, and on the extent to which you have considered the relevant secondary sources.  

For the due date, see the weekly schedule.  Your grade on this assignment will fall by 10 percent for every day that it is late.


Annotated bibliography of primary sources (10 percent)

Prepare an annotated bibliography of all of your primary sources (do not include your secondary sources). The annotated bibliography should follow the same format as the bibliography, with this exception: each entry must be followed by an annotation of one sentence to a paragraph in length that explains exactly how the information in each source relates to your own research.

This requires, of course, that you have already read the sources before writing your annotated bibliography! In some cases you will have to explain that the source is of no use for your research. In a very few cases, you may base an annotation upon catalogue descriptions of a source that you are still waiting to see, but you will have to explain why you have not yet obtained the source!  You must have annotations for all of your primary sources. 

I will grade this assignment on the basis of the clarity of your annotations and your attention to proper bibliographic form.

For the due date, see the weekly schedule.  Your grade on this assignment will fall by 10 percent for every day that it is late.


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

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

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

On the day designated in the weekly schedule, you will turn in a complete draft of your entire paper (20-25 pages plus endnotes). Remember, a draft does not mean your first draft! I expect that you will have already gone through several drafts and rewrites before you turn in your paper.

Your draft must include the following elements:

Do not include a bibliography.

I will not accept incomplete or late papers, and I will not read drafts by people who have not signed up for a draft conference.  If you do not sign up for a draft conference or turn in a completed draft on time, you will fail the assignment (and therefore the course).


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

During the designated week, you will schedule an appointment with me to discuss my comments on your completed research paper draft.   I will give you a copy of my comments, which will explain the strengths and weaknesses that I find in your draft as well as my suggestions for improving the paper.  I will discuss these suggestions with you at the conference.  This is a mandatory conference. 

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)

During the designated class periods, you will give a ten minute (maximum) presentation on your research project.  Your presentation can be in whatever form you want (as long as it is appropriate to the setting).  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 sum up by restating your thesis and explaining the relationship between your findings and the work of other historians.  This presentation is mandatory, as is attending the presentations given by other students.


Completed, revised research paper (40 percent)

Your final paper (20-25 pages plus endnotes) must be a complete, revised essay that takes into consideration the comments I made on your drafts. It must include the following elements:

Do not include a bibliography.

The final paper will account for 40 percent of your grade.  I will base the grade upon the paper’s logic, clarity, use of primary sources, demonstration of relationship to other historiography, and strict adherence to guidelines for source citations.  It will be due at our final exam session.  I will not grade any late papers.


Schedule of Assignments (with links to assignment instructions)

Week One (17-19 Jan):   Meeting on Tuesday:  discuss syllabus, nature of historical inquiry, sources and layers of interpretation.

                    Meeting on Thursday:  Discuss approaches to summary and analysis of historians’ arguments (review from 42.298); discuss methods of analysis of primary sources.


                    Appointment Schedule Sign-up Sheet for Topics Conference will be on my office door                   


Week Two (24-26 Jan):  Guest Lectures on Tuesday and Thursday.  Come to room 136 for class at 3:30.  We will then move to room 122 for the guest lectures at 4:00.


Week Three (31 Jan-2 Feb):  Guest Lectures on Tuesday and Thursday.  Come to room 136 for class at 3:30.  We will then move to room 122 for the guest lectures at 4:00.                 

Schedule appointments for Topics Conferences for next week


Week Four (7-9 Feb):  Tuesday:  a. Defining topics and questions; b. Historians' arguments/interpretations and historiographic "schools"

                                    Thursday: Searching for sources and taking notes.

                                   Topics Conferences all this week. BRING DOCUMENT FOR APPROVAL RE. Primary Source Analysis Assignment. 



Week Five (14-16 Feb):  Tuesday, in-class discussion of primary source analysis paper drafts.  

                            Primary Source Analysis Assignment due on Thursday.                   

                                        Thursday, further discussion of the analysis of primary sources

                                        Schedule Proposal Presentations (sign up in class)


Week Six (21-23 Feb):   Tuesday and Thursday:  Proposal Presentations.  


Week Seven (28 Feb-2 Mar):  Research Proposal Assignment and Bibliography due on Tuesday. 

                    Tues: Proposal Presentations

                    Thurs:  Discuss the Historiographic essay assignment. 


Week Eight (7-9 Mar):  Tues:  no class session unless necessary.

                     Thurs:  no class session unless necessary




Week Nine (21-23 Mar): First mid-term progress report on Tuesday and Thursday--YOU MUST ATTEND BOTH DAYS!

                    Historiographic essay due TUESDAY

                    Tursday:  discuss Annotated Primary Source Bibliography Assignment.




Week Eleven:  Second mid-term progress reports on Tuesday and Thursday--YOU MUST ATTEND BOTH DAYS! 

                       We will discuss mechanics of paper drafts and source citations.

                        The Annotated Primary Source Bibliography Assignment is due on TUESDAY.

                        Be sure to schedule your Draft Conferences!!! 




Week Thirteen:   Completed research paper drafts due in my office by 9 AM on Tuesday MORNING!!!



Week Fourteen: Draft Conferences MONDAY and WEDS.

Monday, 24 April:  Wuchter (9:30); Sinkovich (10:00); Dale (1:30); Reedy (2:00); Lehman (2:30); Craig (3:00)

Weds. 26 April: Stavridas (9:00); Quay (11:00); Grace (11:30); Cowperthwait (2:00); Knorr (2:30); Marut (3:00)

                        Tues:  Project Presentations.  YOU MUST ATTEND.

                        Thurs:  Project Presentations.  YOU MUST ATTEND.


Week Fifteen:  Project Presentations.  No class on Thursday (Reading Day)

THE  FINAL REVISED PAPER is due at our scheduled final exam session!


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