Historiography Do’s and Don’ts

The most important thing about studying the study of history is to understand that doing so can sometimes lead to a series of difficult choices, especially for an undergraduate history major.  Here are some suggestions for senior history majors:

 

Do’s / Don’ts

  • Try to build on previous work / Don’t assume you have to tear down previous work to succeed
  • Adopt a constructive but skeptical & questioning tone / Don’t let anything represent the final word
  • Take special care to find the very best recent sources / Don’t waste time on unworthy sources
  • Put your historiography in chronological order / Don’t ever ignore the idea of change over time
  • Tackle big historiography questions in your papers / Don’t try to debate interpretations in notes
  • Be fair when characterizing other peoples’ views / Don’t be afraid to condense and summarize
  • Point out revealing discrepancies in notes / Don’t litter notes with every discrepancy or mistake
  • Be creative about making connections / Don’t overwhelm your narratives with historiography

The bottom line is that undergraduate history majors should always try to see themselves as members of a historical community, ready and capable of making contributions to their respective fields, but only if they work hard enough to deserve it.


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