On June 29, 2023, Professor Anne Foster of Indiana State University posted a query on Twitter: “For all the #twitterstorians , what’s your favorite methodology article? Particularly interested in ones that helped you “get it” in grad school. Looking for inspiration/readings for my “intro to grad study of history” class.”
Having received dozens of helpful suggestions, she compiled them in a bibliography, which she has graciously permitted me to reproduce here:
Every few months history Twitter runs a thread about what software to use for note-taking. (See, e.g., threads recently started by Austin McCoy and J.Meléndez-Badillo.)
I wrote a whole chapter of The Princeton Guide to Historical Research on this topic, the gist of which is that historians have mostly abandoned our simple, easy-to-teach system based on 5 x 8 inch notecards, but we have yet to settle collectively on a computerized system to replace it.
Here are some more thoughts along those lines, and an explanation of the centrality of FileMaker Pro to my workflow for major projects.
Writers of legal or policy briefs often need to summarize their arguments in a single page in order to reach busy, powerful readers. Tables of contents composed of claims are particularly effective ways to achieve this, since readers intrigued by any claim can turn to the section which develops it more fully.
Even if historians do not format their final writings in this way, they may benefit from writing their outlines as a series of claims, reminding themselves of what they need to achieve in each section. (For more on outlining, see The Princeton Guide to Historical Research, chapter 13.)
Here are two examples of such tables of contents—one from law, the other from public policy.
Earlier this month I realized that our nation’s founders declared independence by presenting two explanations of their choice, and showing one to fit the evidence better than the other. That’s a thesis statement.
I have updated “A Thesis Statement Template” to show the thesis statements as they appear in the original works, as well as the theses in template format. The Princeton Guide to Historical Research, 285-286, features four passages from other historians that fit the template without any modification by me.
In 2021, I listened to forty-one audiobooks that covered history, broadly defined. Some of these I had skimmed earlier, but this was my first time reading them straight through. While trade presses still dominate the audio realm, it’s great to see an increasing number of university presses releasing titles.
Publication details come from Google Books. Please let me know if you spot any errors, such as the date of the paperback in place of the original publication date.
Edit, January 5, 2022. Here are links to previous lists:
Inside Higher Ed has published my essay, “5 Paragraphs in Defense of 5 Paragraphs.” Among the other claims, I write that “five-paragraph essays also serve as building blocks for longer works. Three body paragraphs are enough to get students thinking about how one idea relates to the next, as well as to signal those relationships with appropriate transition words and phrases. Once students have mastered that skill, they are ready to assemble those blocks into larger structures.”
Readers may note that The Princeton Guide to Historical Research has five parts.
The Princeton Guide to Historical Research is now on sale! It is priced at only $24.95 in paperback, and through August 31, 2021, use the code ZS30 to get a 30 percent discount. Ebook and audiobook versions are also available.
Watch this site for additional thoughts on the craft of researching and writing history.