INFO 285-03
Applied Research Methods
Topic: Historical Research 
Fall 2018 Syllabus

Dr. Debra Hansen
Office Hours: Virtual office hours by e-mail. Telephone advising available by appointment.

Syllabus Links
Course Schedule
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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 21, 2018, unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled into the Canvas site automatically.

This class will begin on Tuesday, August 21.  Thereafter, weekly sessions will run from Monday through Sunday. All assignments are due on Sunday by 5 p.m.

Course Description

Research methods covers fundamental principles, processes, values, and roles of research for professional application in information organizations.  Students will become critical consumers of research products and learn the basic skills of evaluating, planning, designing, executing, and applying research.

This section of research methods will introduce students to the theory and methods of historical research and writing.  It explores the ways in which historians frame research questions, assess current literature on historical topics, locate and critically use primary and secondary sources, and formulate viable and worthwhile research projects.  Emphasis will be placed on the research skills and tools historians use and the role information professionals play in their support and development.

Waiver of INFO 285: See Waiver option for those who have completed a graduate-level methods course within the last 5 years.

Course Requirements

The assignments for this course are as follows:

  • Discussions. 20 points (10 discussions, 2 points each)
    Participate in a series of discussions pertaining to historical research and history information sources.  (Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 3, & 4
  • IRB Certification.  5 points
  • Complete the National Institute of Health’s online workshop titled: "Protecting Human Research Participants."  The course can be located at NIH Training -  (Learning Outcome 4)
  • Reference Sources Annotated Bibliography.  15 points
    Prepare an annotated bibliography of 10 reference sources that provide historical background and context for your research topic. (Learning Outcome 2)
  • Historiography Essay.  20 points
    Locate and review 15 scholarly historical studies that interpret some aspect of your research topic.  The studies reviewed should be a combination of scholarly monographs and refereed journal articles.  (Learning Outcomes 1 & 3)
  • Primary Sources Survey. 15 points
    Locate and describe the manuscript and record collections that you will use as the foundation of your research project. (Learning Outcomes 1 & 2)
  • Research Proposal.  25 points
    Write a formal research proposal for a master’s thesis or Ph.D. dissertation. The proposal will be based on earlier assignments and will include an overview of the topic and its significance, a literature review, a discussion of methodology and primary sources, and an outline of proposed chapters.  (Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 3, & 4)

Required Style Manual
Historical research requires you to effectively communicate your research findings and evaluate the writings of others. An important aspect of this scholarly communication is understanding and using the standard citation formats for historical works. Because of historians' continued use of footnotes and the extensive information they provide in their references, history publishers most often use The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) for written publications. If you are serious about historical writing and publishing, I encourage you to invest in a copy of the MOS and become familiar with its rules.  The online version is convenient and easy to use:

Chicago Manual of Style - 

Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (8th edition) is a derivative of Chicago MOS and an acceptable substitute for this class.

Assignment Submission
All assignments must be submitted by 5 p.m. on the day they are due.  Late submissions will be reduced by 20% of the total points possible for that assignment. Late discussion posts will not be accepted.

Grading and Due Dates

Discussions 20 points TBA
Reference Sources Bibliography 15 points September 23
Historiography Essay 20 points October 14
Primary Sources Survey 15 points November 4
IRB Workshop  5 points November 18
Research Proposal 25 points December 9

Course Schedule

Reminder: Weekly class sessions run from Monday through Sunday. All assignments are due on Sunday by 5 pm.

Unit Dates Topics Assignment

Aug. 21 - Aug. 26 Introduction

What is history
Why is history important
Historical work in the information professions
Discussion 1 (Aug. 21 - Aug. 26)
2 Aug. 27 - Sept. 2 Historical Writing

Current trends/schools in  historiography
Approaches to historical writing
Historians and their sources
Discussion 2 (Aug. 27 - Sept. 2)
3 Sept. 3 - Sept. 23 History Reference Sources

Current and retrospective reference sources
How historians use reference sources
How historians evaluate reference sources
Discussion 3 (Sept. 3 - Sept. 16)

Reference Sources Bibliography Due:  Sunday, September 23, by 5 p.m.
4 Sept. 24 - Oct. 14 Historical Monographs and Secondary Sources

Locating history books and articles
Learning the historiography of a research topic
Evaluating historical writings
Writing an historiography essay
Discussion 4 (Sept. 24 - Sept. 30)

Discussion 5 (Oct. 1 - Oct. 14)

Historiography Essay Due:  Sunday, October 14, by 5 p.m.
5 Oct. 15 - Nov. 4 Manuscripts, Records, and Other Primary Sources

Types of primary sources
How to find archival collections
Working with primary sources 
Note taking in the historical process
Discussion 6 (Oct. 15 - Oct. 21)

Discussion 7 (Oct. 22 - Nov. 4)

Primary Sources Survey Due:  Sunday, November 4, by 5 p.m.
6 Nov. 5 - Nov. 18 Developing a Research Proposal

Components of a history research proposal
Historical writing conventions and documentation
Ethical issues in historical research and writing

Discussion 8 (Nov. 5 - Nov. 18)

IRB Workshop Due: Sunday, Nov. 18, by 5 p.m.

7 Nov. 19 - Dec. 2 History on the Web

Types of historical websites
Using the internet in historical research
Evaluating digitized collections

Discussion 9 (Nov. 19 - Dec. 2)

8 Dec. 3 - Dec. 9 Final Research Proposal Q & A Discussion 10 (Dec. 3 - Dec. 9)

Research Proposal Due:  Sunday, December 9, by 5 p.m.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 285 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the difference between primary and secondary research.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles and processes of conducting research.
  3. Articulate the research method(s) covered in the course, appropriately apply them, and understand their strengths and liabilities.
  4. Understand appropriate data collection/analysis tools, and ethical concerns related to research.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 285 supports the following core competencies:

  1. L Demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the ability to design a research project, and the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature.


Required Textbooks:

  • Presnell, J. (2018). The information-literate historian (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 019085149Xarrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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