Skip to Main Content


Master Syllabus

Print this Syllabus « Return to Previous Page

Administrative Unit: History and Political Science Department
Course Prefix and Number: HIST 294
Course Title: Introduction to the Historian's Craft
Number of:
Credit Hours 3
Lecture Hours 3
Lab Hours 0
Catalog Description:

Designed for the history major or minor, but open to non-majors as well, this course provides hands-on exploration of history as both a scholarly discipline and a professional field, and gives students a broad foundation in learning how to think and work as historians. Topics include major trends in historical scholarship, the assessment of issues such as causes of events, the reliability of evidence, and different theoretical "schools" of history. As a central project, students craft a research proposal as a solid foundation for more advanced work in the history major/minor. Prerequisite: Six hours of history courses at the 100 level.


Prerequisite(s) / Corequisite(s):

Six hours of history courses at the 100 level.

Course Rotation for Day Program: Offered Fall.
Text(s): Most current editions of the following:

Additional monographs or readers from the following list may be assigned as appropriate.

The Methods and Skills of History: A Practical Guide
By Conal Furay and Michael J. Salevouris (Harlan Davidson)
Doing History
By Mark Donnelly and Claire Norton (Routledge)
Companion to Historiography
By Bentely, Michael (Routledge)
World History by the World's Historians
By Spickard, Paul R., et al. (McGraw-Hill)
After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection
By Davidson, James West and Mark H. Lytle (McGraw-Hill)
Historian's Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought
By Fischer, David (Harper Collins)
That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession
By Novick, Peter (Cambridge University Press)

Course Objectives

 To think seriously and systematically about history as a discipline shaped by many and often contradictory concerns.

  • To analyze a selection of significant historical writings culled from the works of ancient, medieval and/or modern historians.
  • To master the knowledge, theories and skills for properly researching a historical topic.

    Measurable Learning Outcomes:

  • Know about the scholarly literature of American and world history.
  • Criticize a major school of history and its approach to historical methods.
  • Summarize the best practices of great historians in the past and in the present.
  • Identify appropriate primary sources on a historical topic.
  • Detect assumptions, bias, and opinions in secondary source materials on controversial issues in the past.
  • Produce a literature review and a research prospectus using the Chicago Style.
  • Evaluate the strengths and the weaknesses of a historical field of inquiry.
  • Describe and explain an essential question for historical research.

    Topical Outline:

    Instructors should introduce participants to various tools--practical and theoretical--that historians have used in their work as well as current approaches to the study of the past. Instructors should also craft assignments that teach students the basic skills of historical research, including but limited to, identifying and analyzing primary and secondary sources, properly citing sources using footnotes per the Chicago Manual of Style, drafting a research question, studying books and journals, locating documents and data, determining a particular perspective, formulating a hjypothesis and crafting a prospectus. Instructors should organize the seminar meetings to focus upon the traditions and the practices that are indispensable for the study of history as a discipline. Topics should include, but not be limited to, the following:

    • The profession of history
    • The Chicago Manual of Style
    • Developments in western historiography from the ancient Greeks through the Enlightenment
    • Tensions between romantic and social-science approaches during the 19th century
    • The Germanization of the academy
    • Varieties of modern history, including empirical, Marxist, post-colonial, gender and other approaches
    • The future in the past
    Culminating Experience Statement:

    Material from this course may be tested on the History Assessment Test (HAT) administered during the Culminating Experience course for the degree. 
    During this course the ETS Proficiency Profile may be administered.  This 40-minute standardized test measures learning in general education courses.  The results of the tests are used by faculty to improve the general education curriculum at the College.


    Recommended maximum class size for this course: 30

    Library Resources:

    Online databases are available at You may access them from off-campus using your CougarTrack login and password when prompted.

    Prepared by: Tonia Compton Date: October 17, 2012
    NOTE: The intention of this master course syllabus is to provide an outline of the contents of this course, as specified by the faculty of Columbia College, regardless of who teaches the course, when it is taught, or where it is taught. Faculty members teaching this course for Columbia College are expected to facilitate learning pursuant to the course objectives and cover the subjects listed in the topical outline. However, instructors are also encouraged to cover additional topics of interest so long as those topics are relevant to the course's subject. The master syllabus is, therefore, prescriptive in nature but also allows for a diversity of individual approaches to course material.

    Office of Academic Affairs