Research & Writing in History (Writing Intensive)

Required and Recommended Texts, Manuals, and Supplies:  
[Required]: Thomas Cauvin, Public History: A Textbook of Practice, Second Edition (London: Routledge, 2022). [ISBN: 9780367473082]; Faye Sayer, Public History: A Practical Guide, Second Edition (New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019). [ISBN: 9781350051324]; and Kristen Nawrotzki & Jack Dougherty, Writing History in the Digital Age (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2013). [Print & free online versions are available at this URL:]


University of Chicago Press Staff, ed., The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers, 17th Edition (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017). [ISBN: 9780226287058]
Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students & Researchers, edited by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, et al., 9th Edition (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013). [ISBN: 9780226430577]

Grading Standards:

  • Participation & Professionalism: 10%
  • Research Paper: 30%
  • Blog Post: 15%
  • Museum Panels & Labels: 15%
  • Additional (Chosen) Writing Assignment: 15%
  • Final Oral Presentation: 15%

Course Requirements:

Participation & Professionalism: Things that may reduce your Participation and Professionalism grade include—but are NOT limited to—being tardy to class, failure to actively participate during lecture and engage with colleagues during small group activities, working on assignments not related to the course, and misuse of electronic devices during class. Things that may improve your Participation and Professionalism grade include coming to the required individual consultations, answering questions when asked, contributing to discussion and group assignments, taking notes, asking questions, etc. 

Research Paper: Each student will be responsible for selecting a historical or public history related topic in consultation with me, craft a thesis regarding that topic, and research it to develop a ten to twelve page (excluding bibliography & cover page) research paper. The topic of this paper is your choice, but must be approved by me. Once approved, the topic cannot be changed as we don’t have the time for major changes, although the exact focus may be refined in consultation with me. To make this daunting task less cumbersome, the paper will be broken up into multiple components totaling 600 points and will have their own due dates throughout the semester. The ultimate goal of this research paper, beyond introducing students to the methods of doing history, is to produce a work of original research that is of sufficient quality that it can be presented to the general public or fellow academics at locations such as the annual meeting of the National Council of Public History.

  • Topic submission: 50 points
    • Students must submit a statement of the broad question/topic/theme they wish to investigate via email.  This statement must be typed and should not exceed one page in length (but must be at least three sentences). Students are expected to have done some research before this component is submitted; i.e. you should have a general idea of the topic you wish to explore, the questions you wish to ask, and the thesis you want to prove.  This component should be a substantive paragraph that delves into the topic.  Anyone who submits a one sentence statement will have their Topic Submission returned to them and their assignment will be counted as late.  Once approved, the topic cannot be changed.  However, the specific focus of the topic statement may be refined with the professor’s approval.
  • Formal Proposal (2-5 pages): 100 points
    • Topic: A successful proposal will set out the refined topic or problem you want to investigate via a standard introduction.
    • Thesis: The proposal will contain a suggested thesis statement as the last sentence of the introduction. Thesis statements will be refined in consultation with the instructor. 
    • Brief Literature Review: A successful proposal will briefly introduce the relevant secondary literature on the subject and how your thesis fits into this literature. It will also discuss some of the primary sources you intend to use for the paper, and will establish the significance of the proposed research.
  • Working Annotated Bibliography: 75 points
    • The Working Annotated Bibliography is the basic list and brief description of the sources to be used in the research paper and their relevance to the project.  The Annotated Bibliography should consist of both primary and secondary sources related to the research question, categorized according to type of source (i.e. primary or secondary) and separated by subheadings (i.e. journal articles, newspaper articles, books, website, etc).  The bibliography should include the title of the research project, and a list of the search tools (such as WorldCat or FirstSearch, card catalog, etc.), electronic or otherwise, used to compile the bibliography.  These search tools should be provided at the beginning of the bibliography.  The Working Bibliography must contain at least twenty sources, including at least eight primary sources and at least ten secondary sources (it may contain more).  At least five of the secondary sources must be scholarly works (books and peer-reviewed journal articles) published after 2000.  Secondary sources may not include reference works, textbooks, book reviews, juvenile literature, popular/non-academic web sites, or articles from popular media (like TV Guide, People, or Newsweek). As this is a “working bibliography,” students are expected to continue to add sources to it even after it is turned in (i.e. you do not need to identify ALL the sources you intend to use before this component is submitted, but you should identify as many as possible).
  • Completed Rough Draft: 125 points
    • This component is a full and complete first draft of your research paper.  The draft should be proofread and as free of mistakes as possible.  It should be a minimum of ten pages in length, not including bibliography and cover page.  The draft should follow the formatting guidelines for the final paper.  The draft will be evaluated according to the standards set for the final research paper.
  • Final Submission: 250 points
    • The final research paper is due on the date and time indicated below in the Course Schedule. It should be completed, ten to twelve pages in length, incorporating the comments received in the draft component and consultation stages. It should represent a substantially revised version of the draft component.  

Blog Post: Blogging is an important way to briefly present your research to a very wide-ranging audience. While blog posts can be any length, they are generally relatively short—especially in comparison to a journal article—and are written in a more narrative style. Blog posts can be used to promote or generate interest in your work, receive quick and honest feedback, and foster networking or co-authorship opportunities. Public history venues will often use blogs as a form of “free press,” to promote exhibits, events, or fundraising opportunities. Based on your research and writing for the Research paper, you will derive a 600-800 word blog post from that content and your researching experience. Your blog should also contain at least one image. Your blog post will be graded on your ability to write clearly, engage the audience, proofread your work before posting, make use of folksonomic elements (or the use of tags to drive traffic, to categorize, etc), and demonstrate knowledge of your topic. The blog will not require footnote citation unless appropriate. Direct quotes should be set apart and the name of the author/work should be mentioned in the text (and does not count towards the word count). A bibliography of all works consulted should be listed at the end of the blog post (and does not count towards the word count).

Museum Panels & Labels: Although many museums are opting for new methods of conveying information, such as audio tours, docents, and videos, the writing of museum text is a critical skill for anyone entering the field of public history. Museum text can be used in exhibition panels, display labels, and QR reader info. In this assignment, you will envision your topic as if it were being presented in a museum exhibition. You will want to think about the type of museum your exhibit would be presented in (national, regional, local, university, etc) in order to craft panels and labels that will be most effective for your intended audience. Your assignment is to craft two exhibition display panels of approximately 150-250 words each (for a total of 300-500 words) and four display labels of approximately 20-50 words each (for a total of 80-200 words). Your two exhibition displays should briefly outline/inform the audience regarding your topic generally and should include at least two to three images per panel. Panels can be created using PowerPoint, Word, Microsoft Publisher, Canva, or any other design software/web pages you may have access to. To create your four display labels, choose four primary source objects/documents that you might envision accompanying your exhibition and write each label for your chosen objects/documents. Display labels can be created in a single Word document. When submitting the assignment, include an image of the object/document being written about for each label. Your assignment will be graded on ability to engage the audience, effectively considering the following questions, accuracy, etc. You do not need to provide in-text footnote citation, but a separate bibliography should be submitted as a Word document. When crafting your panels and display labels, consider the following questions:

  • Is the headline effective? Does it grab the viewer’s attention and clearly convey what the content will discuss?
  • Does the text make you want to keep reading? Does it set an appropriate tone for the content?
  • Is the body copy clear, to the point, descriptive, using active words, engaging, compelling, creative, moving, or even witty?
  • Does the text fit the intended audience? Is the language or word usage off-putting or potentially offensive? Is it repetitive or too long? 
  • Are the fonts and colors used readable? Does it adhere to the American Disability Act standards?

Additional Writing Assignment: This additional writing assignment form is open. You will have the opportunity to turn your topic into one additional form of public history writing. This can come in the form of a series of Tweets, a museum brochure, a Wikipedia entry, a magazine article, a letter to the editor, an oral history transcript/review, a guided walking/driving tour map with accompanying information (such as, a Prezi, etc). The amount of writing required will depend on the format chosen (i.e. number of Tweets vs. word count on a brochure) and the use of images will be important. Although these formats may not require in-text footnotes, a bibliography should accompany the assignment.

Final Oral History Presentation: For your final “exam,” you will present your research and what you learned in a ten to fifteen minute oral presentation. Your presentation will be graded on clarity, effectiveness, engagement, accuracy, and punctuality. You will want to create a brief PowerPoint presentation [or similar] that helps provide a visual element to your oral presentation. Your presentation should introduce your topic and thesis, discuss the evidence used to support your argument and any limitations you encountered, acknowledge what you learned by deriving new forms of writing out of your research paper, and inform the audience of your overall conclusions. In terms of grading, 90% of your oral presentation will be graded by me. 10% of the oral presentation will come from anonymous peer-assessment evaluations. You and your peers will evaluate each other on delivery, clarity, and engagement. I will grade based on those same components as well as for effectiveness, accuracy, and punctuality.