Over the past year we have enhanced the research component of the History Major: 1) by developing a senior capstone course, 2) by instituting a portfolio requirement, and 3) by offering more focused instruction in information literacy. These initiatives share the common theme of encouraging our majors to engage in the active construction of history rather the passive reception of knowledge.
- The senior capstone course will be taught for the first time in the Spring 2008. This course guides history seniors in writing a substantial research paper based on original primary sources. They are encouraged to work with faculty mentors in these projects and build on their intellectual focus as history majors. This course has our students “doing history” in the most real way.
- Our new history portfolio, which was approved at the December 2007 Academic Council meeting, is similarly focused on getting students to engage in historical research and analysis. They are now required to turn in a portfolio before graduation, which includes a historical research paper, their “best” bibliography, a book review, and primary source analysis. Our faculty will be evaluating a sample of these portfolios starting in December 2008.
- Recognizing that many of the most important historical sources are now available in electronic form--whether in online databases, web pages, archives, or journals--we have developed a new unit on information literacy to become part of our Junior Colloquium (HIST 291), which all history majors take.
Through these initiatives, the history major will be more research intensive and will encourage students to engage with all the major source venues, from the web to archives. Some of the award winning student papers which have already come out of our efforts are: “Reading between the lines: What quack advertisements reveal about Eighteenth-century Medicine,” and “From Lakefront Mansions to a Concrete Jungle: Examining the Evolution of Housing in Edgewater.”