Once you locate the collections pertaining to the history of the United States, browse the shelves until you find a book that interests you. For this document lab, you may select a book that addresses any aspect of US History from 1865 to 1899. Choose your book carefully, as you will be dissecting it for this week’s document lab. If you are lost or unsure of your have chosen an appropriate historical monograph,
Historians use the Chicago/Turabian style guide (Links to an external site.) to format our footnotes. Historians prefer footnotes because we cite diverse evidence to support your historical arguments. A paragraph with parenthetical citations would quickly become cluttered and unreadable, and MLA or APA citations do not provide contextual information about the type of source that historians need to do their work.
Once you have selected a book from Shields Library, write a full bibliographical citation using the Chicago/Turabian (Links to an external site.) format.
Have you ever heard the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover?” While this may be good advice for reading works of literature, historians are very judgemental. Not only do we judge a book by its cover, we ruthlessly scrutinize the title page, table of contents, index, and footnotes before we sit down to read a book. Reading efficiently requires an investment of our precious time, and a historian does not want to waste on a book that is outdated or lacks peer review.
What is peer review? Academic publishers like the University of California Press (Links to an external site.) only publish books that have been evaluated by experts for their factual accuracy and originality. Popular presses often publish history books for a general readership without rigorous peer review, contributing to widespread misconceptions about the American past.
Analyze the title page, table of contents, and citations for the book you selected from Shields Library. What topics will be covered in this book? Is it a work of peer reviewed scholarship? Explain in 50-100 words.
Historians rarely read a book “from cover to cover” unless they are reading for pleasure or we are trying to gain a broad overview of a historical topic that we do not know much about. Professional historians rarely (if ever) memorize a set of facts. Instead, we operationalize historical information to support an argument or interpretation about the past.
Once a historian finishes evaluating the quality and context of a book by judging its cover, contents, and citations, we read the introduction very closely. The introduction of a history book articulates a thesis and summarizes the contents of the book. After reading the introduction, historians skip to the end of the book and read the conclusion and epilogue. Sometimes, individual chapters have short introductory paragraphs that summarize the content and argument of a particular chapter. Read these carefully as well.
In no more than 250 words, summarize the argument and content of your book based on a close read of its introduction, conclusion, and introductory paragraphs to each chapter.
The history book you selected from Shields Library is most likely a secondary source. The book’s author based their arguments based on extensive research in primary sources located in archives, as well as surveying an extensive body of secondary sources.
Skim a chapter and evaluate the author’s use of evidence. Pay attention to the way the author incorporates evidence into their writing, as well as their citations in the book’s footnotes or references section.
Quote an example of where the author uses primary source evidence, and an example of where the author cited secondary source evidence. Your quotations should also provide page numbers from the book. Provide full citation in Chicago/Turabian format of the sources the author has cited, and explain in a sentence or two as to how you distinguished between the primary and secondary source.
A well-written history book will begin each paragraph with a perfect topic sentence (see item #15 in the course writing guide). Good topic sentences represent more than professional writing, they help make a complex argument more readable and understandable. You can skim a whole chapter and retain considerable information simply by reading the first sentence of every paragraph.
Identify and quote the three (3) most effective topic sentences in your book, and three (3) of the least informative topic sentence in the book. Be sure to provide specific page numbers for your quotations. In 100-250 words, explain why these sentences represent both the best and the worst examples of topic sentences in the book. Use the course writing guide as a rubric to evaluate the quality of each topic sentence.
Historians rely on book reviews by their colleagues to determine if a book is worth their time to read and/or its relevance to their own interests. Consider the central themes in this course: the development of American capitalism, expansion of citizenship and civil rights, Native American self-determination, and political realignments.
Which of these central themes does your book most closely engage? Support your conclusion in a short review not to exceed 300 words.
Your TA will evaluate your writing based on the course writing guide, with careful attention to #1weak argument, #2 vague writing; #3 lack of examples/evidence.