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42.398   Research and Writing Skills   Spring 2008

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

Office hours:  T-Th, 2:00-3:30  Wed. 4:00-6:00



Navigation links for this syllabus:

Epigraphs        Introduction      Grading Criteria        Required Texts

Detailed Descriptions of Assignments    On missed classes, appointments, and deadlines

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:

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 but mandatory assignments:

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.  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.

We 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), I will treat that paper as one day late.  The only exception is fr 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:

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 selection (a few pages) from a primary source related to your research topic.  Preferably, this will be a rather brief document, no more than 3 pages long.

You must show the document 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 have to analyze it!

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. 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

You 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. 

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.

When you read secondary sources, think about how each author's interpretation fits into "groups" or "schools."  Historians often are explicit about how their conclusions relate to the historiography, but that is not always the case.  Sometimes differences in interpretation are based upon the kinds of sources that historians have examined, but that is not always the case.  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 does each argue, what kind of sources does each use?

Be sure that you keep good notes that include very specific summaries of each author's thesis, the types of sources each author used, and the the relationship of each book or article to other historical interpretations. 

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

In the body of your paper, discuss these patterns of interpretation.  Also 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)

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

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

Each individual entry must be followed by an annotation one paragraph in length that explains what the most important information in that source is in relation to your research.

You must have annotations for all of your primary sources. 

This requires that you 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.  Be sure to explain why. 

If you have ordered a source by interlibrary loan and it has not yet arrived, you may base your annotation upon catalogue descriptions of a source--be sure to explain this in your annotation. 

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.

Your completed draft must include the following elements:

        -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


        the body should provide historical context and necessary background information

        the analysis of evidence must logically support the thesis stated in your introduction

        the analysis of evidence can take either a narrative or non-narrative form

        the evidence itself must be discussed in a way that answers your questions/proves your thesis

        the evidence may be organized either chronologically or thematically (or as a combination)


        sums up the major findings of your research

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


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 explaining 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 (with links to assignment instructions)

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


Week I:  

Tuesday:  discuss syllabus

Thursday:  discuss nature of historical inquiry, sources and layers of interpretation.

Be sure that you have read Marius, chapters 1-2.


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


Week II:   

Tuesday:  Modes of Historical Writing.

Be sure that you have read Marius, chapter 3.

Thursday:  Locating sources. 

Be sure that you have read Marius, chapter 4.

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

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


Week III:    No class sessions.

Topics Conferences

You need to find a primary source for your Primary Source Analysis Assignment for next Tuesday.               


Week IV

Tuesday:  Taking notes and identifying arguments in secondary sources. 

Be sure that you have read Marius, chapter 5. 

Also, using JSTOR to find and read this article: 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

ALSO, I will give you a document in class that you are to read and analyze for Thursday.  Follow the directions for the document analysis paper.

DUE ON TUESDAY BRING DOCUMENT FOR APPROVAL RE. Primary Source Analysis Assignment. (I'll give them back to you [approved or rejected] on Thursday.)

Thursday:  Analysis of primary sources. 

Be sure that you have read the handout document from Tuesday and that you have used it for a "practice" document analysis.


Week V:   

Tuesday:  Discussion of primary source analysis paper drafts.  

Bring 2 copies of your Primary Source Analysis Assignment to class to distribute for discussion.

Thursday:  Further discussion of the analysis of primary sources, note-taking and note-retrieval.

Primary Source Analysis Assignment due on Thursday.                   

Schedule Proposal Presentations (sign up in class)

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


Week VI:  

Tuesday and Thursday:  Proposal Presentations.  

Work on your written Research Proposal Assignment and Bibliography                 

Keep reading your sources!


Week VII: 

Tuesday: Proposal Presentations

Research Proposal Assignment and Bibliography due in class on Tuesday

ThursdayDiscuss the Historiographic essay assignment; discuss writing conventions. 

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

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



No class sessions. (Conferences by appointment)

Write your historiographic essays!

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




Week IX: 

Tuesday and Thursday:  mid-term progress reports

Historiographic essay due in class on TUESDAY.

Thursday:  also discuss Annotated Primary Source Bibliography Assignment.


Week X 

No class sessions.  (Conferences by appointment)

You should plan on finishing reading your primary sources by the end of this week!


Week XI: 

Tuesday:  mid-term progress reports  

Annotated Primary Source Bibliography Assignment due in class on TUESDAY.

Thursday:  discuss mechanics of paper drafts and source citations.

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--you had better start writing!


Week XII: 

No class sessions.  (Conferences by appointment.)

Completed research paper drafts due in my office during class time on Thursday.                


Week XIII:  

No class sessions:  Draft Conferences


Week XIV: 

Tuesday and Thursday.  Project Presentations.  YOU MUST ATTEND.


Week XV:   

The University has designated Tuesday and Thursday as "reading days"

Work on revising your papers!


Finals Week:

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


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