I once attended a class that gave a great outline for the best ways to study history. (Frankly, this outline is a good way to study almost everything!) I am unable to give credit to the developer of this outline as I have no idea who to give credit to, but I wanted to share it as it has been so useful to me. When I have studied almost any challenging subject, I find myself coming back to this particular way of studying. I find myself using this technique with the scriptures as well and I find that I really feel like I can learn more using it. So I really wanted to share it in the hopes that others will find it useful too!
How to read history assignments
read introduction which will tell you about about author and why they wrote book
read title of contents to examine organization
if you have time pre-read chapter introductions, subheadings and look at all illustrations and graphs before doing a full reading
Then ready to read: You will know
the topic of the book (what aspects of history covered)
background of author (political, history,journalist,etc...)
when book was written (a 100 yo classic, recent on topic, etc...
its thesis and conclusion – the principle point the author is making
hopefully you will learn to recognize and describe a weak thesis or unsupported evidence as time and learning goes on.
Reading a textbook
read text as close to appropriate lectures as possible
re-read if any parts are confusing
look for emphasis sections – notice your reactions or disagreements
Reading a monograph
a monograph is a specialized history work on a particular subject. Pay special attention to the theme and point of view- try to understand the author's assumptions and values
analyze, criticize and question
Reading an anthology – an anthology is a book of readings, usually short excerpts from large works or primary documents. Usually describe a different aspect or interpretation of subject and can have disagreements. Expect students to be able to assess the arguments of the various authors and take a position to debate. Analyze the arguments different authors and compare different approaches.
Reading a historical novel – work of fiction based on actual occurrences and people. Usually more dramatic and personal than a textbook or monograph. Be cautious to not treat this as historical fact. :)
From class lectures – PAY ATTENTION
Read text first to help minimize note taking. It will allow you to concentrate on new or different points
Determine points in lectures which are the most important
Listen to what the instructor stresses and what is different from the text
Be sure notes are coherent
From slides and films
take notes on what slides included note facts – don't relax!!!
examine emotional message and artistic content as well as historical fact
Taking notes in a “wired classroom” - traditional lecturing as well as audio, CD-Roms, internet. The key is to follow carefully the ways in which new media is used to compliment the theme or lecture. How do the pictures compliment the theme or lecture? Take notes on media and on relation to discussed topic
Guidelines for Peer Review
Don't be openly critical – assist classmates in seeing strengths and weaknesses. Ability comes from being on the outside of the research.
Pay attention to thesis – is it clear?
Does body of paper provide important evidence to support theses
are the points made in support of the thesis well organized and clear
are the papers conclusions justified by its arguments and documentation
How to write history assignments
demonstrate that your thinking on the subject is logical
convey to readers clearly what you understand
use clear sentences
do not use unnecessary phrases
use past tense
avoid using passive voice
change subject – change paragraph
have a clear beginning
use an outline
History is a record of human past
study of history important – helps us to understand human nature and behavior
gives us insight and understanding of contemporary affairs
the past shapes the present
societies use history to socialize children and teach them how to behave and think is socially/culturally important
different societies view history differently
Approaches to history – humanities and social sciences
humanities – see history as made up of unique people (actions and events)
social sciences – patterns in human thought and behavior over time
I hope this is helpful to all you students out there. I am headed back to school in a few months and I am getting nervous and excited all at once! A semester full of history just waiting to be explored... here I come! :)