I was recently interviewed by my dear friend Will Bachman for his podcast, Unleashed – How to Thrive as an Independent Professional. I tried to argue that while the most common subjects for popular history—wars, murders, disasters, sports, etc.—have their place, independent consultants and other professionals could benefit from broadening their history reading beyond those topics.
I have posted some suggested titles to get them and others started as A Layperson’s Reading List in American History, 2018. For some older suggestions, see A Layperson’s Reading List in American History, which I most recently revised in 2004, and A History Professor’s Guide to Audible.com, from 2013.
I have updated my page on How to Write an Outline to reflect my growing preference for decimal rather than alphanumeric outlines. Alphanumeric outlines repeat letters and numbers, so the reader must flip back and forth to figure out if a point labeled “3” is II.B.3 or III.A.3. Decimal outlines solve this: it’s always point 2.2.3. Also, decimal outlines offer an easier check on an overgrowth of points. Rather than tell students they may not use letters and numbers higher than V, E, 5, e, etc., I can simply tell them to write the outline without any digits over 5, anywhere in the structure.
I have also removed the reference to The Craft of Research, since the 4th edition does not include the useful advice that appeared in the 3d. In its place, I refer readers to the Purdue OWL page on Types of Outlines and Samples. And I’ve changed the way I outlined Wells’s introduction.
I’ve kept the old version online for fans of Roman numerals.
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.
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.
I’ve updated my external links to connect to the latest version of Paul Edwards’s great instructions, How to Give an Academic Talk.
To complement my existing instructions on How to Write an Outline, I have added an Article Outline Example. By keeping the outline to just the top two levels, this document outlines Wells’s article in just a page and a half.
I have posted a new page, “How to Write a Prospectus.”
A dissertation prospectus is an essay arguing that you have found a research problem whose solution merits thousands of hours of your time; hundreds of hours of the time of your various advisors and committee members as well as that of librarians, archivists, and other people of good will; and, if you are lucky, some public or foundation funds toward your research expenses. Though the dissertation you complete will likely differ significantly from the one you conceive, you should be able at least to sketch out a viable project before attempting to write one.
Comments appreciated as always.
My page on Examples of Critical Reading lists several techniques used by historians to read primary sources critically. I have posted a one-page list of those techniques, which I have found useful in the classroom.
[Update, 1 April 2013: I have changed the handout to read “unstated agenda,” not just agenda.]
Back in October, William Cronon fretted that today’s readers, especially younger readers, may lack the attention span to read book-length accounts of the past, whether they are printed on paper or displayed on a screen.
On my external links page I’ve links to William Cronon et al., Learning Historical Research and Macalester College, Write Well. Thanks to Steve Burt for pointing me to the latter.