15 Washington Mews Room B03
This course is designed for all PhD students in all fields, especially those in their first year who want to fulfill the department's requirement to write a scholarly research paper. For our purposes, we will define such a paper as one that intends to make an original contribution to the historical literature in 7,000-10,000 words, not including the notes. To help you prepare these papers, we will examine examples of excellent historical writing in a variety of fields and time periods, paying particular attention to how those writings are constructed and especially to the question of what makes them work. We will consider, in particular, the argument or arguments advanced and the evidence mobilized to support them. We also examine the structure of these works and the quality of their prose. In doing so, we will cover the mechanics of good non-fiction prose: strong topic sentences, cohesive paragraphs, transitions from one paragraph to the next, as well as key elements of sentence and paragraph structure such as end-focus, progression from known information to new information, and topic chains in which the same subject appears in most sentences in a given paragraph.
Since the main purpose of this course is to give you the opportunity to produce your own original work, reading assignments will be relatively light and largely confined to the first half of the semester. I'll provide examples of works that have provided models for me at various stages of my career, and I'll ask each of you to do the same: provide an article or book chapter that you have found particularly helpful, either because you've learned a lot from it, or because it seems to you a model strong historical writing. We'll examine these writings in class, and you'll provide a couple of short (300-500 words) analyses of them.
You'll also be asked to contribute one primary source especially useful for the paper you are writing. We'll examine these documents in class.
The second half of the semester will mostly be devoted to the preparation and peer review of your individual papers. Early in the semester, you will have submitted a paragraph describing the subject of your paper, and by mid-semester, a short précis and annotated bibliography. The next step will be to submit a brief outline of the piece and by week 10 a solid first draft, about which I'll give you detailed feedback. You'll then make revisions and share your second draft with all members of the seminar. In class, you'll each offer friendly, constructive critiques of your colleagues' work. We'll conclude with a discussion of what revisions, additions, and elaborations you would need to turn your second draft into a publishable piece of work.