Cal Poly Pomona


History 300 

History Methods



Instructor: Zuoyue Wang                                  Office: Building 94, Room 335

Winter Quarter 2014                                         Office Hours: M 11:35am-12:35pm; W9:30-10:30; & apptmt.    

Class: MW 2:00-3:50pm                                   Email: zywang at

Classroom:  5-255                                    


Overview: The purpose of this course is to explore the methods employed by historians to investigate and interpret the past, and to develop the basic skills of historical research and writing, including information literacy (how to use the library and the internet) and computer technologies.  We will read and discuss the various steps involved in historical research, focusing especially on the effective uses of library resources, archival materials (we will visit our library¡¯s Special Collections), the internet, and oral history interviews.  We will also investigate the intellectual and mechanical sides of such operations as selecting and refining a topic, finding and using appropriate source materials, and organizing, writing, and revising a book review and, most importantly, a historiographical essay.  Finally, all history majors in this course are required to become familiar with the Self-Assessment Questionnaire which is to be filled out before you graduate.


Eligibility: This class is for history and art history majors who have completed most of the lower division course requirements and have taken at least one upper division course in their major fields. Usually this means that the students should be either sophomore or junior/seniors. If you are not a history major or you are a freshman history major, please consult with the instructor at the beginning of class.


Learning Objectives: By successfully completing this class, a student should be able to demonstrate an understanding of different historical approaches, mastery of basic skills of historical research, enhancement in information literacy, ability to plan and carry out a variety of historical writings, such as book reviews, historiographical essays, and research papers, and improvement in ability to write and communicate clearly and to think critically and historically. 


Brundage Worksheets: For those sessions with assigned readings from Brundage, you will fill out a worksheet with summaries of the reading and questions for discussion in class.  Click this link to download the worksheet. You should fill out one worksheet for each assigned chapter of reading.


Book Review: After you have decided on your topic, you first write a 3-page review of two major books on that topic, comparing and contrasting their approaches and conclusions.  This exercise will be useful for writing your historiographical essay.  Please try to choose one book that is published most recently, and another one that is older.  Preferably the books should be scholarly works published by university presses and monographs instead of collections of essays.  The book review should include title of the review, student and class information, citations of the two books in bibliographical style at the beginning of the review, followed by the body of the review.  For good models of book reviews, go to JStor database and check out reviews in American Historical Review, Journal of American History, and Reviews in American History.


The review should first give a brief background on the general topic covered by both books, then examine the book that was written earlier before moving to the more recent book.  By following a chronological order, you can present the changes in scholarship on that topic over the years.  In discussing each book, be sure to inform the reader first about the book and the author.  What kind of book is it (monograph, broad survey, or biographical study)?  Who is the author?  Is she a historian, a political scientist, or a journalist (try to pick books by historians)?  What kind of personal and professional background or experience does the author bring to the topic?  You can often find much of this information in the book itself if it has an ¡°About the author¡± page or in the dust jacket, or in the preface.  Another good source of information on authors is the Dictionary of Literary Biography (and other such databases) available at the Cal Poly Pomona¡¯s library website under ¡°Databases.¡± 


Most importantly you need to present the thesis or main argument of the author; make sure that you have at least one sentence that starts with something like ¡°In this book she argues that¡­¡±).  Then explain how the author tries to support her argument: what evidence and analytical tools (archives, oral history, statistics) does she use?  Give a few examples of how the author makes her case.  In the last part of the book review, point out the agreements or disagreements between the authors of the two books and give your own assessment of them.  Perhaps the best way to learn to write a book review is by reading them in scholarly journals, such as those included in JStor (be sure to select ¡°reviews¡± when you do a search).


Senior Thesis Work Plan: Each student will put together a two-page work plan for a hypothetical senior thesis topic.  The plan should include a title, an outline of the thesis divided into five sections (introduction, three sections of the main narrative, and a conclusion), a bibliography of 5-10 relevant secondary sources (scholarly books and articles), and a paragraph on relevant primary sources (newspapers, archives, etc).


Historiographical Essay: Each student will select, from a list of possible research topics or after consultation with the instructor, a topic on which to write a historiographical essay of at least 10 pages, plus footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography (graduate students must write at least 15 pages). This will be a description and analysis of some of the major books, articles and essays written by historians on your topic. There should be a minimum of 6 titles by different historians in your bibliography (for graduate students: 15 sources). Your paper will not be about the history of the topic itself but will be a short critical history of the manner in which some major historians have approached and interpreted your topic.


John Lloyd Award: There is an annual competition for the best historiographical paper from HST 300 classes in the History Department named after Professor John Lloyd.  Each instructor from each class gets to nominate one best paper each year for the competition.  So, let this be a challenge and inspiration to you to write the best historiographical paper you can.


Materials Needed (available in Bronco bookstore; please bring relevant books to class):

Anthony Brundage, Going to the Sources: A Guide to Historical Research and Writing, 4th edition (Wheeling, Illinois: Harland Davidson Inc., 2008).

Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers, 7th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).


Ground rules and tips to ensure a suitable learning environment for everyone:

1.      Avoid late entry or early exit without instructor's prior authorization.

2.      Late works will be penalized by 1/3 letter grade per day, e.g. B to B- if one day late.

3.      Repeated, unexcused absences will considerably lower your grade for the class. 

4.      Signing-in for another student on the attendance sheet when that student is absent is an act of misconduct subject to disciplinary actions.

5.      Cell phones should be turned off during class period; no text messaging¡ªeither sending or receiving¡ªis allowed once class starts.

6.      To avoid distraction, no use of laptop or any electronics device is allowed in the classroom unless authorized specifically by the instructor.

7.      In general, activities not related to this class are prohibited during class: e.g., newspaper-reading, doing work for another class, and chatting with each other.

8.      If you do not use your Cal Poly Pomona email account regularly, you will need to set it up so any email sent to your CPP account will be forwarded to an email address you do use regularly.  For more see link to CPP Help Desk:

9.      You can purchase Microsoft Windows and Office, including MS Word, at a greatly discounted price at Bronco Bookstore.

10.   If you have any learning disabilities and might need special accommodations, please contact me or the Disability Resource Center (x3333).

11.   Grade appeals policy: Please see this link for grade appeals procedure and policy in my courses:

12.   When we engage in discussion in the classroom and online, please remember that civility and an open mind help create a good learning environment.  For more on netiquette see, e.g.,

13.   Please contact me via email ( rather than phone or Blackboard.

14.   On issues related to copyright, please see:

15.   Plagiarism and other misconducts: See current Cal Poly Pomona Catalog regarding university policy governing student conduct and discipline, including rules against plagiarism (presenting ideas and writing of others as one's own).  For more see University Judicial Affairs:    


Grading: The final course grade will be based roughly on two parts: 1. classroom attendance, exercises from Furay and Salevouris and Brundage worksheets, presentations and participation in discussions, book review, senior thesis work plan (50%) and 2. the historiographical essay (50%).  To a greater degree than most other courses, attendance, punctuality, and disciplined, conscientious applications will be critical.  Having all assignments on time is mandatory for anyone wanting a good grade.


Schedule of Sessions (Subject to Change):


Week 1


1/6       Introduction to the course. Download and read Self-Assessment Questionnaire (you will need to fill it out before you graduate) 


1/8       Why do we study History?  What is History? Primary and secondary sources

Brundage, preface and chapter 1-2. 

Other assigned readings:

Zuoyue Wang, In Sputnik¡¯s Shadow ¡°Preface.¡±

Zuoyue Wang and Naomi Oreskes, ¡°History of Science and American Science Policy,¡± Isis 99, no. 2 (June 2008): 365-373.           

            Due: Brundage worksheets (two, one for each chapter); one-page response on Wang and Wang/Oreskes (you can summarize the arguments in both papers and give your own view on how history can inform the present).


Week 2


1/13     Library and internet research

Brundage, chapter 3.  Due: Brundage worksheet.

Bring your laptop computers to class so you can do some searches.


1/15     No Class Meeting but read Brundage chapters 4-6 and conduct research on your book reviews and historiographical essay.

            Book titles for book review and topic for historiographical essay due next session.

Week 3


1/20     King Holiday; No Class.


1/22     Reading history and writing a book review; Historiographical essay; Writing: Microsoft Word, Footnotes, Bibliography

Brundage, chapter 4-6.  Due:  3 Brundage worksheets (one for each chapter)

 Due: Book titles for book review and topic for historiographical essay.

Turabian, study chapters 15, chapter 16, chapter 17 and browse the rest.

Quiz on Turabian. Handouts: Citation style and writing tips.


Week 4


1/27     Research paper and senior thesis

Brundage, chapter 7-8.  Due: 2 Brundage worksheets (one for each chapter).

Sample Historiographical Paper: Joann Conger, ¡°The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Historiographical Study,¡± Spring 2012, winner of John Lloyd Award, Department of History, Cal Poly Pomona, Spring 2012. Copyright Joann Conger.


1/29     Special Collections¡ªMeet in Library Special Collections, 4th Floor


From week 5 to week 9 we will not meet in the classroom but will meet mostly with me in small groups of three, about 10-12 minutes each week in my office on Mondays during class time, to discuss your progress.  You will need to bring your note cards (or other research materials) and draft pages to the meetings.  If necessary you can also come in to see me in my office during class time on Wednesdays for one-on-one consultations.


Week 5:

2/3       Monday: Group meeting in my office for progress reports and discussion of questions.  Turn in final version of your book review, an outline of your historiographical paper (one page).


Week 6:

2/10     Monday: Group meeting in my office for progress reports and discussion of questions.  Turn in a preliminary bibliography of 6-10 scholarly books and articles (in alphabetical order of the last names of the authors) you plan to cover in your historiographical essay, and your senior thesis plan during our session in my office.


Week 7:

No meeting this week but work on your historiographical essay.


Week 8

2/24     Monday: Group meeting in my office for progress reports and discussion of questions.


3/1       Saturday by 11pm: a complete draft of your historiographical essay is due via email to me and to your fellow group members who are expected to give feedback to each other.


Week 9:

3/3       Monday: Group meetings in my office; I will discuss with you any changes that need to be made in your historiographical papers.


Week 10:

3/10 Monday: Meeting in Classroom 5-255: Presentations and Critique of Draft Historiographical Papers (1)

            Each student will give a 7 minute PowerPoint presentation on his/her historiographical essay and there will be a 2-3 minute discussion following each presentation.  See further instructions on presentations, revisions, and submission of historiographical paper.


3/12 Wednesday: Presentations and Critique of Draft Historiographical Papers (2) 


There will be no small group meetings this week.  Both your presentation of your own paper and your critique of those of others will be evaluated as part of your grade for the class.


Deadline for Final Historiographical Paper:

3/17 Monday: The deadline for the final, polished historiographical paper is 4:00pm, Monday, March 17, via email attachment.  You should also turn in a paper copy in a box inside my office through an opening on the window.