Monday, January 7, 2008

History 469, the writin' class

Continuing with the drumroll accompaniment, 469...

History 469
Seminar in History
WSUTC spring ’08
B. Farley

Essential details: Office is 207j on faculty row in WEST bldg; tel. 372-7357(office), 541-276-6962(ancestral estate). Emails, You can now send to either or both emails because I can actually view and read attachments now on the school email. Wonders truly never cease.
Office hours face-to-face this term are 4-5:30 pm, Mondays and Wednesdays. In addition, on days we are not meeting as a group, which is most of the second part of the term and some days before, you all have first priority. VIRTUAL OFFICE HOURS are 24/7 on email. I will always try to get back to you at least by the next day.

Students with Disabilities: Accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. See Cherish Tijerna, Disability Resources Coordinator, as soon as possible to seek information or to qualify for accommodations. To make an appointment, please call 372-7352. Translation from Officialspeak: If you have a learning disability, people and resources are available to help you.

Introduction: Welcome to History 469, Seminar in History. This is the place where you will get the opportunity to produce a nice piece of historical research and writing, something which you have hopefully been preparing since History 300, the pre-requisite for this course. That is your major assignment, to research and write a 10-15 page paper on a topic of your choosing in 20th century European and American history. This will be something that you can present with confidence to a potential employer, or as a writing sample for graduate or professional school.
What we will do in this course is a) meet Mondays and some Wednesdays during the first few weeks of the semester. During that time, we will cover the essentials of bringing your original idea or the one you developed earlier to fruition—finding and/or refining a topic, how to find and use sources, how to evaluate and present information from sources, bias and how to avoid or minimize it, and generally the dos and don’ts of writing about history. The main point about that last matter is: be honest, and avoid trying for spectacular or controversial findings. Your task is to determine what happened with/to your subject, wherever that might lead you.
Also during this first few weeks, you will be reading ONE REALLY, REALLY FINE piece of work in American history: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s OUTSTANDING book on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II, No Ordinary Time. I want you to read this first because she uses a diversity of sources to maximum advantage and makes them work for her. This book is serious and substantive, yet full of humanity and telling anecdotes. DKG is an ordinary mortal who produced this wonderful portrait; YOU are an ordinary mortal capable of doing the same thing. Oh, and did I mention that you will have an in-class quiz on this book in mid-February?
The second part of the course consists of your producing your DKG-style work, doing your research, putting the paper together and making sure the product meets standards of excellence in terms of diversity of sources, writing and editing. We will do that part together as well, face-to-face and in cyberspace. After we finish the in-class part of the course, I will be in the office during the class period exclusively to talk with anyone who has a question or an issue. In any case, you will turn in to me a rough draft by March 31, I will return it to you with comments, and you will then return to me a finished product by April l6.
In between, you have an excellent resource in the Marius book on how to conduct research in and write history. You also have first priority in the office and on email…I’m basically available at any time to help with ideas, editing, and whatever issues come up during the “birth” of this paper.

NB: Please stop by my blog,, periodically, for updates, announcements and between-classes happenings.

January 7-9: Course Introduction: types of history AND how to choose and/or refine a topic you have already chosen.
Your task: Produce a topic, presented in a coherent paragraph, by January l4. Read 2 chapters of Marius, also 2 chapters of Goodwin

January 14-16: Discussion of paper topics. Then: types of sources and how to use them
Your task: Investigate all possible primary sources accessible in this area and make a list of secondary sources. Continue with Marius and Goodwin.

January 22: NO CLASS this week. Searching for and getting what you need
Your task: Start gathering your sources. Continue with Marius and Goodwin.

January 29: Nuts and bolts of writing, part I: organization and note-taking
Finish Marius and Goodwin

February 7: Nuts and bolts of writing, part I: editing and annotating
Continue with Goodwin.

February l1-13: History on film, TBA

February 21-23: NO CLASS February 21, Prexies’ Day; QUIZ on DKG on February 23.
Your task: Read, make notes and WRITE SOMETHING EVERY DAY for the next couple of months. If you do those things, the paper will materialize.

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