The final essay is due by noon on August 5. Please submit your paper to Blackboard in the Assignments section and post your file in the Final Essay thread on Blackboard.
Based on our conversation in class I have decided to modify the course schedule for June 30 and July 1. On June 30 we will discussion writing introductions. Please prepare for class by reading my blog post The Hook and coming prepared to discuss the three example introductions I included in it. You do not need to bring drafts of your introduction.
We will not meet as a class on July 1. Instead, I encourage you to arrange an individual appointment with me to discuss your research project. I can schedule meetings on Friday at 9, 9:30, 10, or 10:30. Email email@example.com to claim a spot.
The outline assignment will now be optional rather than mandatory. If you would like feedback on an outline before writing your draft please submit it to me no later than July 6.
Novelists often put a great deal of thought into their first sentences. They hope to strike a tone, set a mood, and immediately engage the reader. Consider a few examples from the American Book Review’s top ten all-time best first lines from novels. (For a full list of the top 100, click here.)
“Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
“A screaming comes across the sky.” – Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
Academic writers reach for similar goals in their introductions. You hope to capture your reader’s interest and make him or her continue reading the essay. “What grabs readers,” the authors of The Craft of Research adroitly point out, “is a problem they think is in need of a solution, and what holds them is the hope that you’ve found it.” Each of you has been thinking about a historical question, or problem, this semester. The challenge of the first paragraph of your essay is to effectively introduce that problem to readers and make them interested to see how you will solve it through the evidence you gleaned from the primary sources.
Effective introductions usually have three basic components:
- A contextualization of the background
- A statement of the problem
- A response to the problem
As you draft your introduction, consider whether it contains these three elements.
Writers often benefit from considering examples of others’ work. Read each of the following introductions and think about these questions.
- How does the author make an attempt to grab my attention or pique my curiosity? Is it effective? Why, or why not?
- What is the historical problem (or question) the author will examine in the rest of the essay?
- Does the author provide a response to the problem? Or is there an indication of at least one individual’s thoughts that might be examined in the body of the essay?
- Which of the three examples do you think is most effective? Why? Which was least effective?
- How might you use these as models for your own introduction?
Introduction Example 1
Introduction Example 2
Introduction Example 3
If you had to rank each introduction from best to worst, which would take top honors? Which would be second and third? I encourage you to share your rankings by posting a comment. Be ready to discuss these introductions in class.
 Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 222.
Image by Protocol Photography via flickr.
It is often helpful to see examples of others’ writing to help you think about your own. Here’s a sample research prospectus (below) from one of my former students. This is for example purposes only. The student did a number of things well, but there were also several areas that could have been improved. Nevertheless, this sample contains many of the sections that you should include in your own prospectus.
One important thing that is not in this sample that should be in yours, is a bibliography with sources divided into primary and secondary sources with annotations for the secondary sources.
Tomorrow we will have a historiography workshop in class. You should bring three to five secondary sources that you will discuss. Be sure to bring a mix of sources. A majority should be books.
In class you will perform two roles: presenter and audience member.
Presenters: Discuss the sources you brought with you using a historiographical approach. Educate your classmates on the authors, their arguments, and their relationships with each other. Are they asking similar or different research questions? If similar, on what points do they agree? Where do they disagree? If the authors are asking different questions, why? What do they hope to teach us about the topic that other sources had not?
Audience Members: Listen to each presentation carefully. If the presenter has done a good job you should be able to list the authors discussed, the discipline or occupation of each author, the titles of the sources, the years they were published, the key arguments, and the relationships between sources.
Consider making a chart or, at minimum, taking notes on the presentation. The audience will use the presentation to reflect back to the presenter what they learned and offer questions or advice for how to write about the sources.
Presenters should be prepared to discuss the sources you have chosen and should bring the sources with you. You may refer to notes but you may not simply read from prepared remarks. Presenters will have between 5 and 10 minutes.
Audience members should be ready to critically engage with the presentations and offer feedback. One purpose of this workshop is to help authors work on clearly explaining the historiography of the topic. Your role is crucial in achieving this purpose.
Thinking about seminar as a triathlon is helpful in conveying the amount of work that is in front of you and the fact that you may very well be exhausted by the end of the course. You shouldn’t be intimidated, though. Although there are no shortcuts to producing a high-quality research essay, there are some tips that can help you along the way.
- Do not procrastinate.
I encourage you to schedule some time every day that you devote to seminar work. Some people make an appointment on their calendar daily and make sure they don’t let anything else interfere. Some days your research appointment may only be an hour, while other days you may be able to devote larger chunks of time to your project.
Working every day is one of the most important tips for success in seminar. It is not a paper that you can write the day before–or even the week before.
- Choose a topic that is manageable or “do-able.”
Because this paper is meant to be based almost entirely on primary sources, it is critical that you choose a topic that had a variety of accessible sources. In other classes you may have started your research by brainstorming a topic and then finding sources. In seminar you will have more success if you find an archive or collection of primary sources and build your research questions around it.
- Develop a systematic way to manage sources, take notes, and keep track of your research progress and goals.
Keep careful bibliographic records. Take notes that clearly distinguish between the author’s words and ideas and your own. Record page numbers for every note you take. Taking a bit of time when you’re working with your sources will save time in the drafting stage.
These tips may seem basic, but they will help you produce a better research essay.
We will be meeting in the archives for class on June 2. After a brief orientation by a staff member you will choose a manuscript collection to explore. I’ll ask that you request materials from a collection and investigate its contents to see what types of sources are available and think about potential topic ideas.
You can prepare for the visit by coming with an idea about which manuscript collection might interest you. Point your browser to http://uca.edu/archives/manuscript-collections/ and browse the collections. Then, tomorrow you’ll be able to get started right away.
I have created a list of questions to guide your time tomorrow and ask that you answer the questions and post your answers to the appropriate thread on the discussion board on Blackboard. You may want to bring a laptop to complete the assignment while you are in the archives.
Over the next few days we will be thinking about the nature of research seminar, the course goals, and ways to achieve them. Seminar is a unique course, but there are some analogies that might be helpful to think about as you contemplate the work before you.
The course that comes closest to Seminar is Hist 2320: Introduction to Historical Research. While 2320 might be a reasonable comparison, it is important to understand that 2320 was a course to prepare you for your 4000-level courses. After taking Seminar, one student deemed the comparison between the two courses as inadequate. The student said, “Seminar was like 2320 on steroids.” Seminar required more intensity and more work.
This student’s quip about Seminar caused me to think about other apt analogies for Seminar. I think the best one is between Seminar and a triathlon. To cross the finish line in such a competition, an athlete must 1. Train, 2. Swim, 3, Cycle, and 4. Run. You’ll be participating in similar stages this semester.
You have technically been training for this course your entire academic career, especially in 2320 and the 3000 and 4000-level courses you have taken. We’ll continue the training stage over the first few days of the semester by thinking about methods and tactics to produce an original essay that makes an argument based on primary sources.
The swimming stage of a triathlon is comparable to choosing your topic. Topic selection is critical, but it can be slow going and require a lot of work–just like swimming.
After you have chosen a topic, you will start the next two stages that will likely move a bit more quickly, but you will still be working hard just like cycling and running.
I, and your fellow classmates, will be your support network to cheer you on and help you reach the finish line.
In my Tegrity lecture “How I Work” I discuss organizational strategies and examples of workflow. Below you’ll find links to some of the tools I mentioned. In many ways, traditional note cards and notebooks are still the best and most reliable tools, but if you’re interested in electronic alternatives, you might consider some on the list below. If you have an app that you would like to recommend please share it with the class by posting a comment.
About a month ago, I read a blog on workflow that integrates Scrivener and Simplenote, an app not mentioned below. One important point that the author mentions is to be sure to have a backup system in place. I encourage you to use a cloud-based service such as Dropbox or Google Drive to store your research files and assignments. Backing up to the cloud can help avoid catastrophe in the event of an individual hard drive failure, computer malfunction, or misplaced flash drive.
Zotero (free): http://www.zotero.org
Zotero is an electronic tool to organize your research. It is especially helpful at creating bibliographies and taking notes.
Evernote (free): http://evernote.com/
A robust application to organize notes, keep track of ideas, keep a research journal, and more. There are Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android apps.
Microsoft OneNote ($$$): http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/
An application in Microsoft Office that has all of the features of Evernote, but is a bit more customizable in terms of organizing your notebooks. Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus is available for UCA students for free. Install your copy at http://ucabears.onthehub.com. You must register your UCA email address.
Scrivener (Mac and PC, ~$45): http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php
From the website: “Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.”
Welcome to Professor Rosenow’s blog for History 4300! This course is a research seminar that serves as a capstone to your history degree. It provides the opportunity to practice the craft of history and apply the knowledge and skills you have learned from other courses. The key activity will be researching and writing an original research essay based on primary sources.
On Blackboard you will find a copy of the syllabus, detailed instructions for assignments, and other related course materials. You will be submitting your assignments on Blackboard and there you will find my comments on your assignments and your grades. You can log in to the Blackboard course site by directing your browser to my.uca.edu, logging in, choosing the My Courses tab, and selecting Seminar. Alternatively, go to bblearn.uca.edu and navigate to seminar.
I am looking forward to meeting you, and I’m excited to see what project ideas you’re thinking about pursuing this semester!