Historical Methods – HIST 501

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 07/28/2020

Course Description

This course covers methods, writing, citation, and tools for graduate level historical research.




This course introduces the student to the mechanics of studying history. The course will give ample consideration to methodology, starting with simple, basic skills like writing proper footnotes and graduating to more refined interpretive skills like conducting an oral history interview. The student of history should also understand how historians have understood and constructed the past, based upon their own cultural assumptions, epistemic presuppositions, and methodological limitations. This course emphasizes historiography and interpretations of history from the ancient world to the present. The student will also explore Christian perspectives on history and will be challenged to develop a consistently Christian and biblical approach to researching, writing, and teaching history.

Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Identify classic authors and works of historiographical significance.
  2. Describe the work and perspective of significant western historians.
  3. Evaluate modern theoretical approaches in history from a biblical perspective.
  4. Demonstrate graduate-level competency in historical research and analysis.
  5. Demonstrate graduate-level competency in applying historical analysis in writing.
  6. Prepare for writing a Master’s thesis in history.
  7. Demonstrate college-level competencies in reading comprehension, documentary analysis, research and historical writing, and oral communication on topics relevant to American Economic History.

Course Assignment

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in Module/Week 1.

Discussion boards are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, the student is required to provide a thread in response to the provided prompt for each forum. Each thread must be at least 400 words and demonstrate course-related knowledge. In addition to the thread, the student is required to reply to 1 other classmate’s thread. Each reply must be at least 200 words.

The student will devise a research topic suitable for a graduate-level history course. The topic must relate to American history, modern European history, or the modern world prior to 1950. The research topic must answer a specific question of historical interest. The student will write a 1-paragraph statement of the research topic and explain the key historical questions to be answered or resolved.

The research proposal is a detailed explanation of the topic to be studied, the process by which the student answers a question of historical significance, and the principal sources for research. It must include a: 1) thesis statement 2) explanation of historical significance 3) annotated bibliography and 4) a research plan that explains the location of the major primary sources needed to complete the project (archives, digital libraries, museums, etc.) The student will write a 1-page Research Design in current Turabian format.

For the annotated bibliography portion of the assignment, the student will compose a basic list of the key documents, historical objects, works of art, books, and articles related to the research topic. The sources will be divided into primary and secondary sources. At least 20 entries, divided between primary and secondary sources, must be annotated. The student must use current Turabian formatting for the bibliography. Of the 20 entries: (a) 3 must be primary sources, (b) 3 must be books, (c) 3 must be articles, and (d) 1 must be an archived, primary source.

The bibliography must be organized into the following sections: 1) Primary 2) Secondary Books, and 3) Secondary Articles.

The student will locate and summarize a historiographical essay pertaining to his/her chosen research topic. The submitted assignment must be 500–750 words, use current Turabian citations, and focus on why and how historians changed their interpretations about the specific topic over time. Historiographical essays are available in scholarly journals and even on scholarly websites and discussion boards. In some instances, there may not be an essay directly applicable to the chosen research topic. In this case, the student should consult with the instructor for further guidance.

The student must choose a leading book related to his or her research topic, review the book in 5-600 words, and consult no fewer than 3 other scholarly reviews of the same book. In addition to current Turabian citation of the book reviewed, the student will attach a bibliography of the 3 or more additional scholarly reviews consulted.

The student will list, summarize, and analyze primary and secondary sources pertaining to his/her chosen research topic.

The student will choose 5 primary sources and a) describe and summarize each source and b) analyze each source as it supports the thesis statement.

The student will also choose 8 secondary sources (4 books and 4 journal articles), a) summarize the argument, b) explain how each source supports the thesis and c) reflects changing interpretations of the topic over time.

This assignment must be approximately 13 paragraphs (1 short paragraph per source). The submitted assignment will average 750–1250 words.

Using the information from your discussion board and your classmates replies you will complete the following three steps and submit content using the template located below.  For the purposes of this course, “digital collections” refers to online depositories of primary sources related to human history.  “Online journals” refers to any collection of scholarly articles housed under the banner of one journal title (i.e. Bound Away: The Liberty Journal of History).  Online journals still follow the same layout, structure, and formality of printed academic journals.  Finally, “digital databases” refers to an easily searched clearing house for academic journal articles, book reviews, essays, and even primary source content.  Digital databases typically have a search tool or search engine and return lists of entries relevant to the searched term or terms.  The URL (website address) of the search results are not permanent nor stable.  Examples of digital databases with search engines include JSTOR, ERIC, Google Scholar, America: History and Life, Historical Abstracts, etc.  Students are never to use URLs from these search results when citing the source gathered from the search.

The student will compile information from the historiographical essay, primary source, and secondary source assignments into an 8–12-page final research essay related to the scholarship of his/her chosen research topic.

Each quiz will cover the Reading & Study material for the module/week in which it is assigned. Each quiz will be open-book/open-notes, contain 10 multiple-choice questions, and have a 20-minute time limit.

Using Turabian’s Manual of Style, the Department of History Quick Guide to Turabian, or alternative websites, the student will answer questions related to proper footnotes and bibliographic citations.