A few days ago, The Historical Society blog turned up in the top right-hand corner of my Google Reader page. Having just recently received, read and enjoyed their magazine, I thought I’d click and I’m delighted I did as there is a lot of useful and eclectic historically-related stuff there. [It’s also perfect for Google Reader as they seem to post about every four or five days there.]
What I’ve spent most of my time reading so far are a long series of posts by Heather Cox Richardson of U. Mass – Amherst called “Richardson’s Rules of Order,” all offering advice for struggling undergraduate history students. “Appropriate Behavior” in college classrooms is interesting not so much because it list things I couldn’t have thought of myself, but the fact that’s all there in one (actually four) places, so that I can just link from my syllabi in the future for students who don’t understand these things and therefore don’t have to wrack my brains putting it all down myself.
I’m also grateful for the section on writing a research paper, as I was just thinking that I hadn’t given my own upper-level undergraduates enough guidance like this:
You’re ready to write your paper. You have a thesis: “Custer led his men to a slaughter because he was determined to regain the favor of his Commander-in-Chief, President Grant.” Write that thesis on a sticky note and put it over your workspace, to guarantee that everything you put in the paper supports that thesis. When you get tangled up in your writing, and can’t decide what to put in, that paper will be the judge. Does whatever you’re writing advance your thesis? If not, it stays out.
Absolutely right. Even when you can get a good thesis out of students they always seem to have trouble with the follow through. It’s very hard to explain just because you found it and it’s interesting, it might not necessarily belong in the paper.
The funny thing about that post in particular is that it got posted on July 19, 2009. Who’s writing a research paper in the dead of summer? I guess I can be thankful when I use these posts on Monday I’m not really late to the party on this one.