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The Study and Writing of History

history department

The Study and Writing of History is a course required for all history majors and open only to history majors. Ideally it is taken during the Sophomore year. Taught in sections of 13-15 students, this course serves as an introduction to history as an intellectual discipline. It is a three-credit course, requiring a significant commitment of time and energy on the part of the student, who is required to research and write a major paper based on primary sources and to submit it in both draft and revised versions.

The course is designed to create a common understanding of historical method among our majors. After taking it, they should understand from practical experience:

  • the difference between primary and secondary literature;
  • how to find and evaluate primary sources;
  • how to interpret and synthesize the many different works they read;
  • how to generate a question to guide their research;
  • how to refine the question as they learn more;
  • how to compose an argument and organize a paper; and
  • how to revise their work in response to the questions and criticism of other readers.

After taking the class, our students should know what historical scholarship is.

Because of the small class size, the students experience a great deal of interaction with their fellow students and, in particular, with their instructor, with whom they normally meet individually several times during the semester in addition to class meetings.

Guidelines require at least 30 pages of written work for the course, including a historiographical writing assignment and a major (normally 25-page) research paper submitted in both draft and revised forms.

Each section of The Study and Writing of History addresses these general historiographical concerns while focusing on a specific topic.