LIBR 285-11
Research Methods in History
Fall 2009 Greensheet

Dr. Anthony Bernier
Instructor Phone: (510)339.6880
Instructor Office Location: King Hall 418D
Instructor Office Hours: Advising available by appointment

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
ANGEL Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

Mission of the School
The School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) educates professionals and develops leaders who organize, manage and enable the effective use of information and ideas in order to contribute to the well-being of our communities. 

Angelâ„¢ Information
This course will be delivered through the Angelâ„¢ Learning System. Students must self-enroll for this course on Angelâ„¢ between 18-25 August. You will be required to use a password access code which I will send via the MYSJSU Messaging system prior to 18 August. The link for Angelâ„¢ tutorials is:

The class begins on Monday 24 August and ends with the final project due on Sunday 6 December at 5 p.m.. Weekly sessions run from Monday through Sunday – and all assignments are due on Sundays at 5 p.m. (Pacific Time).

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 historical research products. Emphasis will concentrate on developing, planning, and producing a quality research proposal.

This section of research methods (Research Methods in History) 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 203, LIBR200, LIBR202, LIBR204, and demonstrated writing proficiency required.

SLIS LIBR 285 Waiver Option:

If you have 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), you can petition the SLIS
Graduate Advisor to waive the LIBR 285 requirement. However, a waiver, if granted,
does not reduce the total units required for the MLIS degree. See Waiver option

Course Objectives

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

  • Conduct a systematic and critical literature review of published historical research (historiographic essay);
  • 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 historical research;
  • Develop, plan, and produce a viable history research proposal

You 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 (tertiary) 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

  • Angelâ„¢ Discussions. 20 points (10 discussions, 2 points each)
    Participate in Blackboard 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 complete this workshop at any point during the semester. It requires about two hours. When you have finished the course, you will receive 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.
  • Historiographic Essay. 20 points
    Locate and review 15 scholarly historical studies that treat 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 would 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 assignment 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.

Holiday Observances
Only University-recognized holidays will be recognized for this class. See the Academic Calendar on the University’s website for specific details.

Students should avail themselves of the policy for uncompleted coursework on the School’s website under “Registration.”

Dropping the Course
The last day to drop this course without an entry on your permanent record is
Thursday 3 September 2009.

Grading and Due Dates
Assignments are due at 5 p.m. (Pacific Time) on the date they are due. Assignments submitted late will sustain a 20% reduction of the total points possible for that assignment, and late Discussion posts receive a 1 point reduction.

Discussions 20 points (total) Various
IRB Workshop 5 points TBD
Reference Source Bibliography 10 points 20 September
Historiographic Essay 20 points 11 October
Primary Source Survey 15 points 1 November
Proposal Review 5 points 22 November
Research Proposal 25 points 6 December

Optional Elluminate Office Hours:

Historiographic Essay

Thursday 8 October,
7-8PM (Pacific Time)
Draft Research Proposal
Wednesday 18 November, 7-8PM (Pacific Time)

Textbooks and Readings

Required Style Manual
Historical research requires you to effectively communicate your research findings and critically 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, historians and history journals use The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) for written publications. This may contrast with your use of the LIS convention of APA (American Psychological Association) style.

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.

Beyond the text, other required materials will be assigned for each class unit. These will be available as PDF files on Angel™, through the King Library’s full text databases, or on the web.

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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