Approved by Faculty Senate

 

University Studies Course Approval Application 

Department/Program: History

 

Course Number: 298 Number of Credits: 3

 

Course Title: Historical Research Methods and Historiography

 

Catalog Description:

An introduction historical research and criticism that exposes students to the sources, resources and techniques of historical research and evaluation of research as well as to divergent historiographic traditions. Prerequisites: History Major or Minor standing or Social Science/History standing and English 111.

  

This is an existing course that has previously been approved by A2C2: Yes.

 This is a new course proposal: No.

Proposed Category: Unity and Diversity � Critical Analysis

Department Contact Person:

Alex Yard

ayard@winona.edu

 University Studies Program Proposal

Course - History 298: Historical Research Methods and Historiography

Category - Unity and Diversity: Critical Analysis

The program defines Critical Analysis courses as follows:

Critical Analysis courses in the University Studies program are devoted to teaching critical thinking or analytic problem-solving skills. These skills include the ability to identify sound arguments and distinguish them from fallacious ones. The objective of these courses is to develop students� abilities to effectively use the process of critical analysis. Disciplinary examples should be selected to support the development of critical analysis skills.

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

 

a. Evaluate the validity and reliability of information.

History 298 is dedicated to preparing students for both the senior research seminar in history, which requires students to complete a study of significant length using primary source materials, and secondary-level teaching of history. Students in the Social Science/History Program for secondary teachers enhance their ability to evaluate historical literature and become familiar with uses and abuses of primary sources. The department concluded that history minors ought to have the same exposure and training.

Critical to the course is examination of primary sources for their validity and reliability. And the course devotes significant time to this problem. The course, in other words, teaches students to ask of what event is the document/ image/recording/artifact before them a record. We assume it is a record of some event, and in that sense valid and reliable, but the key question of what event. Students might be challenged, for example, to consider whether the English translation of a recently found 1975 Russian translation of a letter written in Vietnamese from a North Vietnamese official to a Soviet official is evidence of:

 

1. A factual report on American POWs held secretly after U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam.

2. A Vietnamese officials� scheme to curry favor with superiors in Hanoi and/or Moscow.

3. A Vietnamese miscalculation of Soviet intent.

4. A mistake made in the Vietnamese bureaucracy.

5. A scheme of a Soviet official to impress his superiors.

6. A scheme of a researcher to influence US policy toward either Vietnam or post-Soviet Russia.

7. The difficulties involved in translating official documents.

8. All of the above.

9. None of the above.

Through the course, in other words, students begin to explore how to examine documents and other forms of evidence as they decide how to relate them to existing historical literature.

These explorations take the form of small group discussions of assigned exercises and written responses to class assignments.

 

b. Analyze modes of thought, expressive works, arguments, explanations, or theories.

The course addresses this outcome in two different ways. A significant portion of the course focuses on pulling apart historical arguments and explanations and exploring how well the evidence supports them. Students, for example, complete a number of exercises that require them to identify the thesis of an extract of a scholarly book or article. Moreover, students complete exercises in which they explore authors’ assumptions and frames of reference. Students also complete exercises in which they identify and evaluate the evidence used by the author of a scholarly book or article.

In a different vein, students in the course explore historiography, or the history of written history. By so doing, they encounter and learn to identify a variety of modes or traditions of historical thought ranging from cyclic visions of historical repetition and religiously-informed ideas of purpose to Leopold von Ranke’s valueless history and Marxism (traditional and Frankfort School), Burkean conservatism, contemporary feminism and others. Moreover, students are required to then identify which historiography tradition(s) appear in selected examples of historical literature.

Students will practice and refine their skills in this area in a variety of assignments. They might, for example, participate in small group discussions of assigned exercises and/or analysis of scholarly book reviews. They might also make an oral presentation on the change or constancy of textbook treatments of selected topics from the 1930s to recent times, students will practice and refine their skills in this area.

In both areas, students are required to identify and pull apart historical argumentation.

 

c. Recognize possible inadequacies or biases in the evidence given to support arguments or conclusions.

The course requires students to understand and evaluate how historians use evidence to defend explanations and arguments in preparation for either our senior research seminar or work as a secondary teacher of history. Specifically, the course requires students to complete a series of exercises in which they identify and discuss a variety of examples of historians’ uses and misuses of evidence.

The course requires students to address these issues in small group discussions of assigned exercises and in writing and oral presentations on topics of their own choice.

 

d. Advance and support claims.

The course prepares students to better advance and support claims in three ways. bulletBy reviewing historiography, students will learn how historians develop new research questions and advance claims. Nearly all new historical research grows out existing historical research and, by acquainting students with that process, the course will begin to prepare students to do so on their own. bulletBy requiring students to study closely and evaluate historical claims and evidence offered in support of claims, the course will improve students� ability to themselves do so. bulletThe course�s discussion and written assignments call up students to advance and support claims about the course material. Students will be required advance and support claims about the validity of the use of evidence in a various exercises. They will also need to advance and support claims concerning the central argument that various historians have made. Moreover, students will complete writing assignments in which they must advance claims about the historiographic assumptions, central argument(s) and evidence use in various historical works.

 

 

 

Sample Syllabus

WINONA STATE UNIVERSITY

DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY

History 298 -- Historical Research Methods and Historiography

University Studies Program Category: Unity and Diversity � Critical Analysis

Prof. Yard Office Hours: MWF, X:XX-X:XX

Office: Minne Hall 2XX T-Thurs, X:XX-X:X

email: ayard@winona.edu

 

History 298 is a one-semester introduction to historical research and scholarship. The catalog explains that the course will "expose students to the sources, resources and techniques of research and evaluation of research." At a minimum, the course should leave you better able to analyze, evaluate, summarize and even criticize historical literature [including textbooks and museum displays], and to figure out how historians use -- and misuse � evidence. You should also be better able to understand the mental frames of reference shape historians’ thinking, discover how historians develop new research questions and follow research and historiographic trails. You should also leave the course familiar with the range of sources -- printed and electronic -- modern-day historians use. In short, the course ought to prepare you to better cope with historical materials and arguments either in the WSU Senior History Seminar or as a classroom teacher.

 

Course Format

Small-group and full-class discussions will absorb most classroom time for History 298. I will keep formal lecturing to a bare minimum. Early in the term, students will establish small, 3-person groups, which will maintain records of their classroom work in an Official History 298 Folder. The groups can expect to report their conclusions in class discussions. I will review and use the folder’s record of discussion participation in determining your final grade. The discussion emphasis requires that you come prepared

to participate in each class session.

 

University Studies Program Note to Students

History 298 is a University Studies course in the Critical Analysis category of the Unity and Diversity component of the program. Critical Analysis courses are devoted to teaching critical thinking or analytic problem-solving skills. These skills include the ability to identify sound arguments and distinguish them from fallacious ones. The objective of these courses is to develop students’ abilities to effectively use the process of critical analysis. These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

A. Evaluate the validity and reliability of information.

B. Analyze modes of thought, expressive works, arguments, explanations, or theories.

C. Recognize possible inadequacies or biases in the evidence given to support arguments or conclusions.

D. Advance and support claims.

History 298 will promote these skills as it explores how historians approach research and writing in their field of study. The following outline of the components and requirements of the course indicates which Critical Analysis outcome each part of the course address,

 

 

Course Requirements and Grades

I expect each student to attend, and participate in each class session. The discussion folder that each group maintains will provide an attendance record.

Each student in the course will also: bulletComplete and discuss exercises concerning thesis analysis and use and misuse of evidence in the required book The Methods and Courses of History by Furray and Salevouris. (USO A and C) bulletComplete three (3) short written assignments focused on identifying historical themes in scholarly works. (USO B and D) bulletComplete a library research exercise focused on locating various pieces of information that includes use of traditional and electronic sources. (USO A) bulletComplete a written project exploring how the textbook treatment of a topic you select has changed or remained constant over time. (USO B, C and D) bulletComplete a written exercise tracing a particular textbook claim back through the secondary source(s) on which it rests and the primary research materials used by the author(s) of the secondary sources. (USO A, C and D) bulletDevelop a historiographic bibliography on a topic that you select. bulletParticipate in the making of one small-group presentation evaluating one of the exhibits on display at the Winona County Historical Society. (USO A, B, C and D) bulletComplete two written exercises identifying the thesis and evaluating the use of evidence in scholarly articles. (One will serve as a mid-term exam, and the second will be the final exam for the course.) (USO A, B, C and D)

 

Final Grades

I will determine final grades in accord with the following point assignments:

Discussion Participation 200 Points

Historical Theme Identification 100 Points

Library Research Exercise 100 points

Museum Group Project 150 points

Textbook Topic Project 100 points

Textbook Source Exercise 100 Points

Historiographic Bibliography 100 points

Mid-Term Essay 150 Points

Final Essay: 200 points

Note: I will not accept late submissions of the any of the short assignments or small group discussions.

 

Required Books

Conal Furay and Michael Salevouris, The Methods and Skills of History, A Practical Guide .

James West Davidson and Mark Hamilton Lytle, After the Fact, The Art of Historical Detection . 3rd ed.

Mark T. Gilderhus, History and Historians, A Historiographical Introduction, 4th ed.

Jules R. Benjamin, A Student's Guide to History. 6th ed.

Materials for additional reading assignments will be available in the History Department library and WSU's campus library.

 

Course Schedule

The course will be divided roughly into thirds which cover different kinds of issues. The instructor will assign readings and distribute the assignments at the appropriate moments during the quarter. The three sections will cover the following:

 

I. History vs. The Past

This section will define the terms "history" and "past," explore the role of language -- specifically of verbs -- in written history, distinguish a historical argument (or thesis) from historical evidence, and examine the locations, uses and misuses of evidence. The section will require a written analysis of a historical argument or thesis and a library exercise in which you will locate and evaluate various bits of information. In this section of the course, you will make extensive use of Furay and Salevouris, The Methods and Skills of History, A Practical Guide, which was written very much in the workbook tradition and will form the basis for a number of small group discussions. In addition, this section will feature a session in the Library focused on electronic sources related to history. You will also trace a textbook claim back to its sources in this section of the course. (USO A, C and D)

 

II. Historians' Frames of Reference and Historiography

This section will explore how historians' mental worlds help shape written history. Specifically, the section will examine historians' assumptions concerning the context of events, time, change and continuity over time and causation. The section will also discuss Marxist -- old and new � and feminist assumptions in historical writing. It will also discuss how historians use other historians' works to develop new questions. The section will require critical summaries of works concerning time and causation and the exploration of textbook treatments of a topic you select. In addition to The Methods and Skills of History, this section of the course will make use of Gilderhus, History and Historians. (USO B, C and D)

 

III. Diverse Sources and Methods of History

This section will concentrate on historical essays that make use of a wide variety of source materials and explanatory assumptions. Most, but not all, of the reading assignments will be drawn from Davidson and Lytle, After the Fact. .The section will require written assignments on scholarly works and the presentation on the on the Winona County Museum exhibit. (USO A, B,C and D)