History Writing Guidelines
Critical Reading and Writing Guideline for Students of History
Muskingum University Department of History
The work of the historian, and the student of history, is done principally through the interpretation of primary sources. This writing guide will help the student of history better prepare and produce an assignment using primary source documents. It is divided into three sections: 1) critical reading, 2) writing guidelines, and 3) revision.
A primary source may be a government document, a letter or diary, a pamphlet, a newspaper or magazine article, visual materials (pictures, drawings, cartoons, etc.), audio materials (speech, oral history account, etc.) a doctor's or social worker's report, a novel or autobiography, or even a scholarly article as long as it is from the period under investigation.
Since we all bring different assumptions and analytic skills, it is quite possible (and common) for historians to draw opposing conclusions from the same source. There is no one "right" interpretation of any document. However, there may be wrong interpretations! A convincing analysis of a primary source must be grounded in (1) an understanding of the document itself, and (2) knowledge of its historical context.
I. Critical Reading
Critical reading is the starting point for good writing. You must understand the document and be able to critically assess its value. Critical reading requires you to evaluate the document on multiple levels.
Level 1: This level should provide factual information that allows you to assess the nature of the document. When reading a document or viewing an image, you should train yourself to be able to answer the following types of questions.
- Who wrote the document? What was the author’s background, what groups did the author belong to (e.g. class, race, gender, nationality, etc.)? When and where was the document written or picture taken?
- Who is the intended audience? Was the document intended for public consumption or a limited audience? What knowledge does the author assume the audience shares and how might that affect the presentation of materials?
- What is the basic story line of the document? Do you understand what is going on in the document? Who are the important people or details? Can you identify the author’s thesis, and what proof he/she offers to support the thesis?
Level 2: In this level, you will move beyond the basic facts of the document and begin to interpret the document in a wider context.
- Why was the document written? Was it intended to convince the audience (that you have already identified) and if it was, what logic or argument does it employ? Are you convinced? If the document was written to entertain or motivate its audience, how did the author attempt to accomplish this? Were you entertained or motivated?
- What assumptions does the author make? Are these assumptions explicit or implicit? What does the author leave unsaid? Sometimes what not there may be just as revealing as what’s there.
Level 3: By now you should understand the document and be able to interpret the author’s intentions. Your ability to answer the following questions will form the heart of your essay or response to the assignment.
- Can you believe this document? Is there another side to the story? What knowledge do you possess that the author lacks, ignores, or suppresses?
- What can you learn about the society that produced this document? Everyone is influenced by the historical period in which they live and social and cultural environment. How is the author a product of his/her environment and how is this reflected in the document?
- What does this document mean to me? Every document had meaning to the society that produced it and for you. Does the document mean the same thing to you as it did the author’s audience? Can you account for similarities and differences? Are they significant?
II. Writing Guidelines
Once you have critically read and answered as many questions as you can about the document (you cannot consider all of them with every piece), you need to begin to craft an analytical essay. Writing, like critical reading, is a multi-sided operation. You will need to consider multiple factors in crafting your essay.
- Write several drafts. You want to hand in a paper with a clear and consistent beginning, middle, and end. However, even the most experienced writers cannot sit down and write a clear and consistent piece from beginning to end. As you write, you will develop and refine your own ideas and argument. This is a good thing. However, you must make sure your introduction is in accord with your conclusion. After completing your first draft, revise your introduction and possibly even middle so that it is alignment with your conclusion. A useful technique might be to take your first draft’s conclusion and re-write it as an introduction and then write a new and more forceful, definitive conclusion.
- Use an appropriate title. A title should reveal the central purpose of your paper. A title can help you begin the writing process and help you focus and be consistent. If you can’t come up with a title it may be an indication that your ideas are confused or inadequately focused.
- Use quotations carefully. Quotations certainly bolster the impact of your argument, but overuse can weaken it. An insightful quotation lends considerable weight to the effectiveness of your argument, however, too much quoting may look like you are padding your essay or do not fully understand the document. Avoid quoting a secondary source as a conclusion or critical point in your argument. Use your own words to fashion your own argument and conclusion. When you do quote, it is a good rule to identify the original author in your text.
- Keep Citations Consistent. When you quote or paraphrase ideas, arguments or specific references that are not your own, you must cite the source. It is not necessary to cite common knowledge.
A. Exact wording from a source. When you use a direct quote from a source, use quotation marks or set the quote apart from the rest of the body of the text. Direct quotations should be used judiciously.
B. Paraphrasing from a source. In this instance, you are using your own words to convey the meaning of another. There is no need to use quotation marks but you must still use a footnote, endnote or other approved citation method (check with your professor to be sure) to indicate where the information came from.
When citing sources, you must be consistent in form. It is recommended as a student of history you learn the proper format for footnotes and endnotes.
Examples of sample footnotes:
- Book by a single author: Sample sentence from body of text.1
1 Thorne, Christopher. Allies of a Kind: The United States, Britain and the War Against Japan, 1941-1945. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 341.
Subsequent references to the same source can use this format:
1 Thorne, Allies, 350.
2 Thorne, Christopher. “Indochina and Anglo-American Relations, 1942-45.” Pacific Historical Review 4 (February 1976): 73-96.
Or 2 Thorne, “Indochina,” 75-77.
5. Eliminate Mechanical Errors. Spelling and grammatical errors distract the reader from the argument you are trying to make. Mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar create the impression that you do not care. Remember that your computer is no substitute for proofreading your work. Ultimately, you are responsible for the finished product. If it is full of careless errors and silly mistakes, you can expect a poor grade. (For a list of common errors to avoid and pet peeves, see beow.)
The key to good writing is effective revision. After you finish your paper, you still need to review and revise your work. It is best to do so after a period of time away from the paper, so planning ahead and completing the drafts prior to the deadline is necessary. When you’ve completed your drafts, make sure you can answer the following questions about your essay:
- Thesis. Does my paper have a clear and effective thesis statement in the opening paragraph? Is my thesis persuasive, original, exciting?
- Organization. Is the paper logically consistent? Does the introduction, body and conclusion reflect a common theme or argument? Does each paragraph have a topic sentence that summarizes the main idea and mini-conclusion emphasizing its importance?
- Evidence. Do I use relevant examples and quotations effectively? Do I have enough evidence from the source to prove my points? Do I explain the connection between the evidence and those points?
- Transitions. Does the paper flow from one idea to the next, or is it a collection of facts and independent paragraphs? Do I use linking phrases and transitions between paragraphs to create a seamless progression towards the conclusion?
- Conclusion. Is it consistent with the evidence presented? Does it build upon and enhance the thesis? Does it include the significance of the paper?
- Mechanics. Have I thoroughly proofread for spelling, capitalization, punctuation, etc? Do I need to check for grammar and sentence structure problems?
- Style. Does the paper flow smoothly? Is my writing lively and engaging? Are my ideas clear to the reader, not just me?
- Citation of Sources. Do I give proper, consistent citations for every source that I use? Did I include other author’s ideas without proper citation
Common Errors and Pet Peeves
- Active versus Passive Voice. Avoid the passive voice as much as possible. The active voice strengthens the tone of your argument, while the passive voice weakens or obscures it.
Passive voice: Gettysburg is considered the decisive turning point of the Civil War. By whom? This statement lacks force and critical information.
Active voice: Most military historians consider Gettysburg to be the decisive turning point in the Civil War. This statement is clearer and more informative.
- Past versus Present tense. You should mainly use the past tense in history papers. When referring to a text and the author’s views, it is acceptable to use the present tense. Example: Karl Marx writes that capitalism alienates workers from the products of their labor. However, it is preferable to say that Marx wrote what he wrote and keep the tense consistent throughout your paper. This will make it easier for you to avoid confusion.
- Punctuation in a Quotation. Periods and commas go inside the closing quotation mark. Colons and semi-colons, however, follow the quotation mark.
Passive voice and improper punctuation: In Fukuzawa’s article, it is said that “under no circumstances should a man be deprived of his rights”1.
Active voice and proper punctuation: In his article, Fukuzawa writes, “under no circumstances should a man be deprived of his rights.”1
- Silly Statements. Avoid making grand or silly statements that cannot be defended. Do not open your paper or essay with a global statement such as "since the beginning of time…" or "throughout history". These phrases are so broad that they are meaningless. Similarly, watch out for “Americans believed…” or “Everyone agrees.” In is highly improbable that there is any belief that every American holds, or every person agrees with.
- Who versus that. Use who to refer to people and that to things. Example: The student who just left my office wrote a paper that is spectacular.
- Its versus it’s. Its is the possessive of it and does not have an apostrophe. It’s is the contraction of it is or it has and does not have an apostrophe. Its’ does not exist.
- Then versus than. Never, ever confuse them. Use then to indicate progression in time. Example: First I will make dinner, then I will wash the dishes. Use than to make comparisons. Example: The History Department is far better than all other departments.
- Less versus fewer. Use less with a singular noun (e.g. less gas, less influence) to indicate degree or amount. Use fewer with plural nouns (e.g. fewer people, fewer accidents) to express number.
- Page numbers. Make certain to number your pages!
- Full names and titles. The first time you mention a person or title of a book, article, etc, you should provide the full name or title. Example: After reading Nakae Chomin’s book, A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government, and Fukuzawa Yukichi’s essay, “On De-Asianization,” I better understand contemporary Japanese intellectual’s views on modernization
How to Research and Write a Seminar In History
Researching and Writing a Senior Seminar in History
Department of History, Muskingum University, © 2005
History 460 (Senior Research Seminar) is the capstone experience for history majors. It requires students to draw on skills learned and honed in survey-level and upper-level classes to create and write a polished, unique research project. It also requires students to follow the path of historians in choosing a topic, finding appropriate resources (both primary and secondary sources), developing a methodology and an outline, reading sources critically, and writing and re-writing an extended paper. Throughout the process, each of the tasks delineated below should help lead you to the next and should be revisited during the process. Remember that your topic, your outline, your sources and your methodology are all flexible; you may have to change any and all of these as you proceed.
Step 1 – Choosing a Topic
Some questions to consider in choosing a topic:
a. What will hold my interest for an extended period of time?
b. What do I already have a solid background and understanding in through earlier coursework in the department?
c. Is there enough current and accessible information for me to complete this topic?
d. Is this topic feasible for a written final product of 25-40 pages? Is it too broad? Too narrow?
e. Are there specific research-oriented questions (questions of how and why, rather that what) I can answer through this project?
Step 2 – Statement of Purpose
This document should lay out the proposed topic you will cover in the research paper, the reasons why you chose to study this topic, the kinds of research questions you seek to answer, a brief historiography, and the issues your research will take into consideration. Keep in mind that this is a flexible document, one that will change as you research and write. Its purpose at this stage is to solidify your thinking about the topic, help you organize your thoughts and prepare you to begin reading and writing.
Step 3 -- Preliminary Annotated Bibliography
You should begin your search for sources with the library catalogues (including OPAL and Ohiolink). Make sure you also consult electronic databases (such as Historical Abstracts). The Reference Librarian can also assist you with research. The preliminary bibliography can be submitted either on index cards or in typed form. Each entry should contain standard bibliographic information followed by a brief description of what the source contributes to your project. Is it a primary or secondary source? [You should have a mixture of both.] What is the thesis statement of the source, i.e. what is its main argument? Why is this source important to your research project? Also keep in mind that the bibliography and footnotes/endnotes from general surveys of your topic can point you in the right direction for addition sources; make sure you use this resource. Depending on your topic, other sources, such as newspaper articles, maps, political cartoon or films, may also be appropriate.
Step 4 -- Preliminary Outline
The purpose of the outline is to help you organize your early research. You should think about how you will present your topic and which your organizational method (chronological, thematic) is the best for your topic. Your outline should be in standard format, with Roman numerals for major topics and letter for sub-topics. It is better to use a sentence format for your outline; this will force you to think about what you want to cover and why, rather than simply listing short phrases and topics. Again, this document will change over time, as your research and writing continue.
Step 5 – Initial Partial Rough Draft
Once you have read through several sources, it’s important to begin the writing process. Keep in mind that you do not need to have read all of your sources thoroughly to begin writing. Starting to write will allow you to understand what you’ve already learned and to test your initial methodology. It will also help to highlight potential gaps in your sources as you ask research questions that your initial sources do not answer fully. In addition, you do not need to begin with your first point in your outline. Simply pick a section of your outline that you feel well-grounded in and begin writing.
Step 6 -- Expanded outline and bibliography:
Now that you’ve written several pages and received feedback from your faculty mentor, you need to reassess your overall research plan and sources. By rewriting your outline and continuing your research to add additional sources, you are rethinking and expanding your project.
Step 7 -- Drafts of your seminar paper
Writing and re-writing your seminar based on faculty feedback and your own editing is an important part of the process. It also helps to keep you on pace to complete the project over the course of one semester and to prepare you for a more polished rough draft. All drafts of your paper should include endnotes or footnotes and bibliographic information, but neither a title page nor a table of contents is necessary. It is MUCH easier to cite sources as you write, rather than filling them in at a later time. It also ensures that your citations are accurate and complete. Drafts should all have standard formatting: 12 point type, double-spacing, one inch margins, and be securely fastened in the upper left-hand corner. This process will culminate in a complete rough draft.
Step 8 -- Final draft
The final draft should contain: a title page, table of contents, main body, endnotes or footnotes, and a works cited section or annotated bibliography (depending on the preference of your faculty mentor). It should be a minimum of 25 pages and a maximum of 40, with page numbers on all pages save the title page. Carefully proofread to eliminate all grammar and spelling errors, and do not depend on your computer to catch them all.
How to Write a Book Review
How to Write a Book Review
Muskingum University, Dept. of History © 2005
The purpose of the book review is threefold: (1) to ensure that students read the book and are prepared to engage in intellectual discussion about it; (2) to prepare students to evaluate historical sources and arguments; and (3) to encourage independent and critical reading and thinking about historical sources. A book review should not summarize all of the information contained in the book. A book review is an overall critique of the book, its argument, its use of evidence and its contribution to historical understanding. It requires students to use analytical skills and pushes them to read and think about the book in a deeper manner, moving beyond a “book report.” Being able to ascertain the author’s argument and offering a critique of his/her use of sources are extremely important parts of the process.
Reading Critically & Note Taking
The key to reading critically is to formulate questions about your subject matter, to ensure that you are fully engaged, rather than merely skimming for main ideas. Rather than accepting everything contained in a book as the absolute truth, read critically by asking yourself questions as you read. Figure out the author’s main argument and then trace how he/she supports the argument through evidence and analysis. Then frame questions that test the validity of the author’s argument, analysis and sources. Pay close attention to the introductions and conclusions of chapters; in these sections, authors often reiterate their main ideas and establish links to other sections of the book. Also, remember that a critical view of a book does not necessarily mean negative; you can provide positive as well as negative insights and explanations.
Note taking is another important way to prepare for writing a solid, critical book review. It allows you to frame ideas in your own words and provokes independent thinking by removing you from the words of the author him/herself. Do not write down extensive notes regarding each aspect of the book. Be selective and make sure you are formulating your own explanation, not simply copying word for word the author’s ideas or writing down interesting and/or new facts. If there are particularly important direct quotes, note their location so you can find them again easily. If you do write down direct quotes, make sure that you designate them by quote marks, so when you are ready to write your review, you properly cite all information.
Key Elements of a Book Review
- In your introduction you should provide the context for the book, i.e. the basic historical background of the period under study. Also, in the first paragraph, you must state both the thesis (main argument) of the author and your own thesis (did the author meet his/her purpose and prove his/her thesis?).
- In the body of the paper, your book review must include the following, but you may place it in any order that works best:
a. information on the author, his/her background, other publications, language abilities, biases, etc.
b. a brief summary of the major ideas presented by the author. As a word of caution, do not spend the majority of your book review summarizing this information. It is more important to analyze and critique the ideas rather than only telling me what they were.
c. assessment of the argument made and the evidence used to support the argument. Think about answers to questions such as the following. Is the argument clearly stated? Is it clearly supported by the evidence? What kinds of evidence (sources) does the author rely on? Is this evidence comprehensive enough to support the author’s argument?
- In your conclusion, please explain how this work adds to your historical understanding of the topic under discussion, whether or not it is valuable for adding insight, and if so, why, if not, why not?
The book review must be typed, double-spaced, with standard font size (11 or 12 point) and one inch margins. It must be no less than three full pages (750 words) and no more than five full pages (1,250 words) in length. For citations, if they are necessary, please use either footnotes or endnotes.
Writing a Historiographical Essay
What is -- and How to Write -- a Historiographical Essay
(c) Muskingum University, Department of History, 2005
Historians do not always agree about how to interpret the events and people that they study; this leads to multiple explanations, which at times, are diametrically opposed to each other. As students progress into upper-level courses in the Department of History, they must move from the mastery of facts and analysis of primary sources encouraged by lower-level courses to a richer and deeper understanding of how history is written and the fact that events and ideas are open to interpretation. Within History 420 (Readings in History), students then move into another level of explanation, where they read intensively on a topic and provide their own historiographical explanations for a series of events/ideas.
Therefore, historiography can be described as “the history of history.” What this means in practice is an exploration of a specific topic, and how historians have explained events or people over time, i.e. how their explanations have changed due to their own worldview and/or ideological bent, due to re-interpretation of previously-viewed sources, due to the availability of new sources, previously unexplored, and/or due to the application of different questions and/or methodologies to sources. Revision of prior interpretations of the past is an implicit and important element of historiography. It requires students to not only be able to explain the different schools of thought or interpretations but also potentially to develop their own explanations, based on their assigned readings. The focus of a historiographical essay is not on the event or person itself; rather, it is on the interpretations of the event or person.
1. Read and analyze multiple works independently on the same topic (assigned on weekly or bi-weekly basis), including an exploration of the sources that the authors utilize or do not utilize in shaping their arguments.
a. Make sure that you are not merely summarizing the author’s ideas; rather, you are providing analysis of the work’s argument, sources, and conclusions and of the author’s own interpretation of said topic.
b. In addition, each author is likely to provide an explanation of the fit of his/her work within the larger historiographical context; take careful note of this as well, particularly when he/she references other assigned works.
c. Another element of this process is to have a firm understanding of who the author is; be certain to conduct research into previous publications, ideological background and/or current research interests. Are there any parts of his/her background that are directly related to the subject matter and if so, what are the pros and cons of this?
2. Questions to consider as you write your historiographical essay: Individual Works
- What is the “main point” or argument made by each work regarding your specific topic? Think particularly about whether or not the author is trying to reinforce an earlier perception of history or argue for a re-interpretation of the past.
- What kinds of sources are used, how and why? How does the author deal with counter-evidence, i.e. information that seems to weaken or contradict the thesis?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses in terms of argument, analysis and conclusions of the work?
- How does this work relate to earlier readings, i.e. do they present similar or dissimilar ideas and how/why?
- How do these authors or works, as a group, contribute our understanding of this series of historical events and their outcome?
3. Bring these works together in an integrated analysis that incorporates and explains the different arguments, conclusions and evidence of various authors in order to build your own explanation of a central theme. An integrated analysis is one that not only draws on different books/articles but also explains how the works agree and disagree with each other. A particularly strong historiographical essay will do this by considering multiple points of view within discussion of a sub-topic, all in one well-crafted paragraph or series of paragraphs, which is then connected back to the overall argument. Then you would move on to the next connected sub-topic, again linking back to the overall argument. You want to avoid the temptation to simply discuss one work, then the next, and then another, with little explanation or analysis of how they fit together.
4. Questions to consider as you write your historiographical essay: The Big Picture
- How has the historiography of your topic evolved over time? What has changed in terms of interpretation of events and ideas? What was the initial interpretation of this event, idea or person? How has it changed and why?
- How have ideological shifts had an impact on your topic? Are the authors under study wedded to a particular “historical school” i.e. Marxist, Feminist, Neo-Conservative, Liberal, and/or how does the author’s main lens of analysis (cultural, political, military, social, etc.) have an impact on his/her interpretations?
- Have the “discovery” or re-interpretation of sources caused historians to ask new questions or take their research in new directions?
- Have historians used different methodological approaches (e.g. quantitative, linguistic) in their work and how was this had an impact on conclusions?
Plagiarism and How to Avoid It
Guidelines from the Muskingum University Department of History
Plagiarism is a very serious academic offense. The penalties for plagiarism are severe, ranging from an F on the assignment to failing the entire course. In repeated cases, it can lead to expulsion from the University. Thus, it is incumbent upon the student to be aware of what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it.
In college, you are continually engaged with other people’s ideas: you read them in texts, hear them in lecture, discuss them in class, and incorporate them into your own writing. As a result, it is very important to give credit where it is due. Plagiarism is using others’ ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information.
To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit or acknowledgement whenever you use:
- Another person’s idea, opinion, or theory;
- Any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings—any pieces of information—that are not common knowledge;
- Quotations of another person’s actual spoken or written words; or
- Paraphrase of another person’s spoken or written words
When you directly copy another person’s ideas, words or opinions into your own paper, you have committed intentional plagiarism. You are attempting to pass off another person’s work as your own. Cutting and pasting information from an internet website is a typical example of intentional plagiarism.
More often, plagiarism results from a lack of understanding, especially with regard to paraphrasing another person’s work. The following examples demonstrate how paraphrasing can constitute unintentional plagiarism and how to avoid it.
In the early twentieth century, most Latin American nations were characterized by two classes separated by a great gulf. At the top were a small group of Europeans-descended white people, the patrones (landlords and patrons), who, along with foreign investors, owned the ranches, mines and plantations of each nation. Like the established families of most societies elsewhere in the world, the patrones monopolized wealth, social prestige, education, and cultural attainments of their nations. Many of them aspired to the ideal of nobility, with high standards of personal morality and a parental concern for those who worked for them. Some patrones lived up to these ideals, but most, consciously or unconsciously, exploited their workers.
In the early twentieth century most Latin American nations were characterized by two classes separated by a large chasm. At the top were a small group of white people, called patrones. Along with foreign investors, the patrones owned the ranches, mines and plantations of their countries. Like aristocrats all over the world, the patrones controlled the wealth, social status, education, and cultural achievements of their countries. Many of them had high standards of morality and were concerned for their workers, but most, consciously or unconsciously, abused their workers.
This attempt to paraphrase constitutes plagiarism. The writer has simply replaced one word with a synonym. Example: great gulf became large chasm, monopolized became controlled, prestige became status, exploited became abused. Furthermore, the writer of the paraphrased passage has deleted a few phrases and restructured other sentences. Still, the second passage is essentially the same as the first.
In a genuine paraphrase, the writer reads and interprets the meaning of the passage using their own words. Consider the following paraphrase of the original passage:
The society of Latin America at the beginning of this century was sharply divided into two groups: the majority of the population, comprised of workers, and a wealthy minority, known as patrones, who were descended from white Europeans. Although they were a small portion of the population, the patrones retained control over the bulk of the nation’s resources and enjoyed elite status. While the patrones professed concern for their workers, they tended to exploit the workers to retain their economic and social dominance.
- Put in quotations any phrase of four words or more that comes directly from the text and cite where it came from. Citing the source of your quotation or paraphrased passage protects you from plagiarism.
- Paraphrase, but be sure to use your own words and style. Do not simply rearrange or replace a few words.
- Check your paraphrasing against the original text. If it is still very similar, paraphrase your own paraphrasing. Just remember to retain the original meaning of the source.
The following discussion of plagiarism is derived from the website, “Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It” at http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/wts/plagiarism.html, and Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 44-46.
Richard Goff, Walter Moss, Janice Terry, and Jiu-Hwa Upshur, The Twentieth Century: A Brief Global History, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 62.
Departmental Attendance Policy
In accordance with the 2006-2007 Undergraduate Course Catalog, page 42; the 2006/2007 Muskingum College Student Handbook, pages 78-79; and the Academic Policies and Procedures, March 2004 Revision, 310.3; the history department has agreed on this departmental attendance policy:
To receive college credit for a course in the history department, students must attend 50% or more of the scheduled course meetings. As a departmental policy, the faculty of the history department define excessive attendance as attendance at less than 50% of course meetings. Individual faculty members may nonetheless choose to define their own attendance policies in their course syllabi. Bona fide, documented absences for reasons of medical, personal, or family emergency or sanctioned college activity are not counted as absences for this rule.
Department Policy on Adjunct Faculty Staffing
The faculty of the department of history has discussed the matter of staffing upper-division courses within the department, and come to the following observations and guidelines:
Courses taught at the 300 and 400 level at Muskingum College are focused on specific regions, nations, themes, periods, or methodologies, while courses taught at the 100 and 200 level are surveys of broad time periods and/or geographical areas. All courses emphasize an understanding of historiography; that is, the interplay of successive and competing explanatory narratives. To varying degrees, all courses teach the skills of the discipline of history. While lower-division courses provide introductions, upper-division courses delve more deeply into these skills. These include argumentative writing; independent research in primary documents; integrating multiple argumentative strands into unique, synthetic arguments; and contextualization of research and argument within existing historical narratives, frameworks, and methodologies. The content areas and skills described above as hallmarks of history courses are generally taught in the coursework phase of graduate doctoral programs. A graduate student demonstrates mastery of this knowledge only with the successful completion of doctoral qualifying examinations. Completion of these exams demonstrates competence to teach the content and skills of history courses.
Based upon these observations, the history faculty members agree that it is absolutely essential that the department follow the guidelines outlined below in staffing courses within the department:
1. Instructors of upper-division courses should possess a Ph.D. from a regionally-accredited institution of higher education, or the terminal degree in their field, if applicable (for example, a Juris Doctorate for legal historians or Master's of Library Science for archivists or public historians).
2. An exception may be made in the case of advanced graduate students who have completed their doctoral qualifying examinations and are classified as "A.B.D." or "All But Dissertation".
3. In rare and exceptional instances where instructors do not possess the above professional certifications but are otherwise qualified, the departmental faculty may temporarily waive requirements 1 and 2 by consensus.
The intent of this policy is to provide students with highly-qualified instructors, to set appropriate levels of academic rigor, to maintain staffing levels appropriate to regional accreditation with the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and ensure the continued certification of primary and secondary school teachers with the Ohio Department of Education.