LIBR 285-02
Research Methods in History
Fall 2009 Greensheet

Dr. Debra Hansen
Phone: (657)278-7288
Office Location: Cal State Fullerton, PLS 275
Office Hours: Virtual office hours by e-mail. Telephone advising available by appointment.

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
Course Schedule

Angel Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

This course will be delivered entirely online through Angel. Students must self-enroll for this course on Angel between August 18 and August 25. You will be required to use a password access code which I will send via the MYSJSU Messaging system prior to August 18.

The class begins on Monday, August 24. Weekly sessions run from Monday through Sunday of the following week.

Course Description

Research methods covering fundamental principles, processes, values and roles of research for professional application in information organizations. Students will become critical consumers of research products. Emphasis will concentrate on developing, planning, and producing a quality research proposal.

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 tools historians use and the role information professionals play in their development, dissemination, and use.

Course Prerequisites: LIBR 200, 202, 203, 204

SLIS LIBR 285 Waiver Reminder

If a student has taken and passed a graduate level-research methods course AND completed a thesis or dissertation as part of a previous graduate degree (as documented by an official transcript), the student can petition the SLIS Graduate Advisor to waive the LIBR 285 requirement.  A waiver, if granted, does not reduce the total units required for the MLIS degree.

Course Objectives

Learning Outcomes
At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Conduct a systematic and critical literature review of published research
  • Articulate different types of research methods, appropriately apply them, and understand their respective liabilities
  • Identify and apply ethical concerns connected to primary research
  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles and processes of conducting research
  • Develop, plan, and produce a viable research proposal

Students will also be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of history both as an academic discipline and as a  specialization within the information professions
  • Explain current trends in historiography and historical methods
  • Show proficiency in using primary, secondary, and reference sources in the conduct of historical research
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the impact of the Internet on historical research and writing
  • Appreciate the importance of protecting human subjects in historical research and demonstrate the ability to work with an institutional review board in developing a research plan 

LIBR 285 supports the following SLIS Core Competencies:

  • Understand the nature of research, research methods and research findings; retrieve, evaluate and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision-making by specific client groups.
  • Articulate the ethics, values and foundational principles of library and information professionals and their role in the promotion of intellectual freedom.

Course Requirements

The assignments for this course are as follows:

  • Angel Discussions. 20 points (10 discussions, 2 points each)
    Participate in Angel forums pertaining to historical research and history information sources. 
  • IRB Certification.  5 points
  • Complete the National Institute of Health’s online workshop titled: "Protecting Human Research Participants." Completion of this workshop is required by all San José State University faculty and students intending to do research with living human subjects. The course can be located at:

    You can take this course at any point during the semester. It will take about two hours to complete the workshop. When you have finished the course, you will be given a certificate, which you should submit to me as proof of completion.
  • Reference Source Annotated Bibliography.  10 points
    Prepare an annotated bibliography of 10 reference sources that provide historical background and context for your research topic. 
  • Historiographical 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.  
  • Primary Source Survey. 15 points
    Locate and describe the manuscript and record collections that you will use as the foundation of your research project.
  • Proposal Review.  5 points
    Provide a short critical review of a classmate’s research proposal draft.
  • 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 outline of proposed chapters.

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 its continued use of footnotes and the extensive details required in its citation formats, history publishers most often use The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) for written publications. If you are serious about historical writing and publishing then I encourage you to invest in a copy of the MOS and to use it faithfully. Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (7th edition) is a derivative of Chicago MOS and an acceptable substitute for this class.

Assignment Submission
All assignments must be turned at 5 p.m. on the day they are due.  Late submissions will be reduced by 20% of the total points possible for that assignment.


Angel Discussions20 pointsTBA
IRB Workshop 5 pointsTBA
Reference Source Bibliography10 pointsSept. 20
Historiographical Essay20 pointsOct. 11
Primary Source Survey15 pointsNov. 1
Proposal Review 5 pointsNov. 22
Research Proposal25 pointsDec. 6

Course Schedule

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

UnitDatesTopicsAssignment Due

Aug. 24 - Aug. 30Introduction

What is history
Why is history important
Historical work in the information professions
2Aug. 31 - Sept. 6Historical writing

Current trends/schools in  historiography
Approaches to historical writing
Historians and their sources
3Sept. 7 - Sept. 20History Reference Sources

Current and retrospective reference sources
How historians use reference sources
How historians evaluate reference sources
September 20, 5 p.m.
Reference source bibliography
4Sept. 21 - Oct. 11Historical monographs and Secondary Sources

Locating history books and articles
Learning the historiography of a research topic
Evaluating historical writings
Writing an historiographical essay
October 11, 5 p.m.
Historiographical essay
5Oct. 12 - Nov. 1Manuscripts, Records, and other Primary Sources

Types of primary sources
How to find archival collections
Working with primary sources 
Note taking in the historical process
November 1, 5 p.m.
Primary source survey
6Nov. 2 - Nov. 22Developing a Research Proposal

Components of a history research proposal
Historical writing conventions and documentation
Ethical issues in historical research and writing
November 15, 5 p.m.
Research proposal draft

November 22, 5 p.m.
Research proposal review
7Nov. 23 - Nov. 29History on the Web

Types of historical sites
Using the internet in historical research
Evaluating digitized collections
8Nov. 30 - Dec. 6Final Projects 
Q & A
December 6 5 p.m.
Research proposal
IRB workshop certificate of completion

Textbooks and Readings

Required Textbook:

  • Presnell, J. L. (2006). The Information-Literate Historian. Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 0195176510. arrow 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;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA) — 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 the following semester. 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.

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

University Policies

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU's policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90-5 at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester's Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes.

Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor's permission to record the course and the following items to be included in the syllabus:

  • "Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor's permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material."
    • It is suggested that the syllabus include the instructor's process for granting permission, whether in writing or orally and whether for the whole semester or on a class by class basis.
    • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, permission of those students or guests should be obtained as well.
  • "Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions without instructor consent."

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy F15-7 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

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