University of Wisconsin–Madison

Goals for History 201–The Historian’s Craft

History Faculty, History 201

The Historian’s Craft courses offer an opportunity to experience the excitement and rewards of doing original historical research and conveying the results of that work to others. Through engagement with locally available or on-line archival materials, the courses encourage undergraduates to become historical detectives who can define important historical questions, collect and analyze evidence, present original conclusions, and contribute to ongoing discussions—the skills we have defined as central to the history major.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be prepared to undertake substantial historical research and writing in a variety of courses, including the HIST 600 seminar. Specific goals for this course include learning to:

  1. Ask Questions: Develop the habit of asking questions, including questions that may generate new directions for historical research.
    • Develop historical questions through engagement with primary sources, secondary literature, and/or broader ethical, theoretical, or political questions.
    • Ask historical questions to guide individual research.
    • Pose questions to prompt productive group discussion.
  2. Find Sources: Learn the logic of footnotes, bibliographies, search engines, libraries, and archives, and consult them to identify and locate source materials.
    • Identify the purposes, limitations, authorities, and parameters of various search engines available both through the library and on the world-wide web.
    • Take advantage of the range of library resources, including personnel.
    • Locate printed materials, digital materials, and other objects.
    • Be aware of, and able to use, interlibrary loan.
  3. Evaluate Sources: Determine the perspective, credibility, and utility of source materials.
    • Distinguish between primary and secondary material for a particular topic.
    • Determine, to the extent possible, conditions of production and preservation.
    • Consider the placement of sources in relation to other kinds of documents and objects.
    • Identify the perspective or authorial stance of a source.
    • Summarize an argument presented in a text.
    • Distinguish between the content of a source and its meaning in relation to a particular question.
  4. Develop an Argument: Use sources appropriately to create, modify, and support tentative conclusions and new questions.
    • Write a strong, clear thesis statement.
    • Revise and rewrite a thesis statement based on additional research or analysis.
    • Identify the parts of an argument necessary to support a thesis convincingly.
    • Cite, paraphrase, and quote evidence appropriately to support each part of an argument.
  5. Plan Further Research: Draw upon preliminary research to develop a plan for further investigation.
    • Write a research proposal, including a tentative argument, plan for research, annotated bibliography, and abstract.
    • Identify the contribution of an argument to existing scholarship.
  6.  Present Findings: Make formal and informal, written and oral presentations tailored to specific audiences