Category Archives: methodology

A crowd-sourced list of methodology readings

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:

Continue reading

Why I can’t quit FileMaker Pro

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.

Continue reading

5 Paragraphs in Defense of 5 Paragraphs

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.

Critical reading of short texts

Even street signs can have meanings distinct from their explicit message.

Dan Malouff, “Here Are Five Street Signs That Really Mean the Street Design Is Wrong,” Greater Greater Washington (blog), November 1, 2017,

This sign really means we’re happy to throw a guilt trip at outsiders, but not happy to give our children a sidewalk.

Image by Magnolia677 on Wikipedia licensed under Creative Commons.