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Guidelines for Courses

Guidelines for Courses in History at UALR

Recommendations for Lower-Level Courses

In the World Civilization and United States history surveys, the Curriculum Committee recommends that all students be exposed to primary sources and be required not only to evaluate those sources orally in class but also to write analyses of them. Indeed, as much practice in the interpretation of primary materials as possible will encourage students to understand how historical knowledge is created; to read carefully and write clearly; to develop their own positions on historical issues; and to present those positions effectively.

HIST 4309: The Historian’s Craft

This is a course that is required of all majors as a prerequisite to the capstone seminar and it is recommended that students take this class as early in the major as possible. This is a historical research and methods course, which can be described as “research with training wheels.” In this course, students must be drilled in identifying arguments within scholarly works, interpreting primary sources, evaluating arguments, proper citation of sources, and library research skills.   Students might also be asked to devise an annotated bibliography on a topic of their own choosing.  The Committee further recommends that students be required to write either a research paper or a historiographical paper and to demonstrate in that essay proficiency in citation, argumentation, and historical writing. Such an assignment requires help from the staff in Ottenheimer Library and will help lay the groundwork for higher-level courses and the capstone seminar.

Recommendations for Upper-Level Courses

While we can assume that students in our upper-level courses have usually been exposed to some of the skills listed as part of our goals for history majors, exposure does not assure mastery. And so, at the upper levels, we will often need to provide students the opportunity to practice skills introduced in lower-level courses. In general, however, we expect the level of analysis and quantity of work to be greater at the upper levels.

At the 3000- and 4000-levels, the Curriculum Committee recommends that students be exposed to both primary and secondary works. The Committee suggests that all students be required to evaluate in writing the argument of at least one scholarly article or monograph.  In these courses, papers should go beyond evaluation of single sources, primary or secondary; they should increasingly require synthesis of multiple works.

Thus, a paper in an upper-level class might focus exclusively on primary sources, exclusively on secondary works, or on a combination of the two. The major point is that students should gain meaningful experience in pulling a number of works into a conceptual framework of their devising. Faculty might achieve this goal by assigning papers based on assigned readings or by requiring a term paper based on sources outside the readings on the syllabus. The latter approach has the added benefit of asking students to attempt some research. Given that some students in our upper-level courses are not history majors, we cannot assume that they have research experience, and so we will probably need specifically to teach the skills required to do research papers in the upper-level courses that require them.

HIST 4391/4393/4396: Capstone Seminar

This capstone seminar, required of all majors, is a research seminar that allows students greater independence in formulating and designing an original research project.  Course work should include significant experience in analyzing primary sources and in responding to secondary sources.  Students are required to produce a substantial primary-source-based research paper set within the context of the historiography of the topic, addressing an appropriate question with a logical presentation in support of a thesis.  Capstone papers normally will extend to 14 to 16 pages in length, with appropriate documentation of sources, and will include a bibliography.

* Guidelines adapted in part from the University of Maryland History Faculty Handbook.

Updated 11.8.2010