How to Narrow a Research Topic. Primarily for undergraduates in capstone courses and graduate students in research seminars, but really for anyone who needs to define a manageable history topic.
Hanover College, History Department. On Marginalia: Note Taking for College Students and Others Who Want to Make the Most of Their Reading Time
Making marginalia (notes or symbols written in the margins of a document) is the best way to get the most out of the time you spend reading a difficult text.
New advice for doctoral students in history: “How to Take an Oral Comprehensive Exam.” The process should be one of the most valuable experiences in graduate school.
Ellen Bresler Rockmore, “How Texas Teaches History,” The New York Times, October 21, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/opinion/how-texas-teaches-history.html.
In the excerpts published by Jezebel, the Texas textbooks employ all the principles of good, strong, clear writing when talking about the “upside” of slavery. But when writing about the brutality of slavery, the writers use all the tricks of obfuscation. You can see all this at play in the following passage from a textbook, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, called Texas United States History:
Some slaves reported that their masters treated them kindly. To protect their investment, some slaveholders provided adequate food and clothing for their slaves. However, severe treatment was very common. Whippings, brandings, and even worse torture were all part of American slavery.
Notice how in the first two sentences, the “slavery wasn’t that bad” sentences, the main subject of each clause is a person: slaves, masters, slaveholders. What those people, especially the slave owners, are doing is clear: They are treating their slaves kindly; they are providing adequate food and clothing. But after those two sentences there is a change, not just in the writers’ outlook on slavery but also in their sentence construction. There are no people in the last two sentences, only nouns. Yes, there is severe treatment, whippings, brandings and torture. And yes, those are all bad things. But where are the slave owners who were actually doing the whipping and branding and torturing? And where are the slaves who were whipped, branded and tortured? They are nowhere to be found in the sentence.
Radley Balko offers examples of the way police departments avoid active verbs, the active voice, and human subjects of sentences “to publicly deflect responsibility for police shootings.”
- “A deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
- “The innocent McKay family was inadvertently affected by this enforcement operation.”
- “The deputy’s gun fired one shot, missing the dog and hitting the child.”
Balko notes that police departments have no trouble writing clearly when they want to assign blame to a suspect: “The suspect produced a semi-automatic handgun and fired numerous times striking the victim in the torso.”
[Balko, Radley. “The Curious Grammar of Police Shootings.” Washington Post, 14 July 2014.]