INTRODUCTIONS

1.1 What is Historia?
1.2 What is the Research Process Like?
1.3 What is the Historia Handbook Like, What Purpose is it Meant to Serve, and How Do I Use It?

1.1 What is Historia?

In the fifth century BCE, the large and powerful Persian Empire invaded Greece from the east. In a long, hard struggle, the often outnumbered Greeks were able to repulse the invaders. After the war, a man sought to understand and tell the story of this conflict. He traveled far and wide to collect information, tried to evaluate what information was true, and finally wrote a book. He entitled it "Historia," which in ancient Greek meant simply "researches" or "inquiry." Eventually "historia" became our word "history," and the man, Herodotus, became known as its "father."

By now you're probably thinking: "An interesting story ... but what does it have to do with me?" In a way, we are all a little like Herodotus. Whether we are writing a paper in college, writing a report as part of our job, considering an important purchase, or deciding how to cast our vote, we are engaged in the same basic process of inquiry. We are faced with a question, we gather information, analyze it critically, organize it, come to some sort of conclusion, and express our findings in a form that others can understand. Without the capacity for critical judgment that lies at the heart of inquiry, we could never become intellectually mature people or effective citizens.

The study of history is a great way to develop this capacity because (as we've seen with Herodotus) history itself is a kind of inquiry, a questioning of the past. And one of the best ways of developing our ability to make critical judgments and solve problems as part of historical study is the documented research paper. Such a paper develops a point of view (a thesis) on an important historical question. This thesis is based on sources and your own thinking. Through documentation and a references list, the reader can learn what sources you used in forming your judgments.

This year you are beginning a four-year program that aims to teach you the skills of writing a documented research paper. Each year, as part of your social studies course, you will write a paper of increasing length, complexity, and sophistication. Each year you will receive instruction in different aspects of the research and writing process. As you work on each of your papers, you will submit preparatory work to show your progress. Each of your final papers will be returned with detailed comments in a standardized format so that you can improve your work from year to year. Think of each of these papers as part of a unified, coordinated program of study—the Historia Program.

By the time you graduate, we hope this program will have given you many things: in-depth knowledge on a series of interesting historical topics; a basic mastery of the general skills of historical research, thinking, and writing; and the personal maturity to mange your time independently in a long-term project. We hope that these skills—and a love of learning—will help you get the most out of college and all that lies beyond.

 

1.2 What is the Research Process Like?

Perhaps until now you have considered research and writing a boring, tedious process, one that you engage in only because you are forced to. Good research is arduous, and does require much self-discipline, willpower, and systematic organization; but it can also be tremendously exciting. When you are pursuing a truth that you genuinely care about, research becomes a quest, with as many unexpected twists and turns as a suspenseful novel or movie. Your project can become an intellectual adventure story, with you as the action hero.

As you write your Historia papers from year to year, you will probably get a sense of "dčja vu all over again." It may seem as if, in a sense, you are writing the same paper over and over again—just on different questions. You may get this sense because you are repeating something over and over: the set of steps that make up the research process. By the time your graduate, this process should be second nature. Such mastery is a core objective of the Historia program.

The basic skills of this process—questioning, researching, recording, writing, revising—are essentially the same. At each level, however, they are practiced at a higher level of expertise—just as a beginning tennis player learns the same basic serving action that is used by the top pros. You may think of this progression of skills as a widening spiral—the basic shape remains the same, but the scope, depth, and sophistication expand over time.

When applied to a particular project, this process has a definite linear quality to it; we get a sense of moving through a series of sequential stages and steps. But just like a piece of music in which there are drums, bass line, lead guitar, lead vocal, and backup vocal, there is usually more than one thing going on in your Historia project. You may be looking for new sources, while reading the ones you have, and taking notes on others. Although you will usually be engaged with more than one activity at any given time, one activity will usually take precedence and form your primary focus. The "Process on a Page" chart is meant to convey this dimensions of your project.

And even though the process is basically linear, it has some cyclical qualities, because you will sometimes have to backtrack and continually repeat parts of the process in little loops.

 

1.3 What is the Purpose of this Handbook? What are Its Important Features? How Should You Use It?

This handbook has been produced specifically to meet the needs of you, the Greeley student, as you go through the Historia program. It should be your guide and your reference. Like the program itself, its approach is essentially traditional, but it does have a number of features that are meant to make it most useful to you.

a. Sections:

The handbook is divided into relatively short, clearly numbered sections for easy reference.

b. Questions:

The section headings are phrased as questions so you can easily relate them to what you really want to know and know how to do.

c. Tone:

The handbook is addressed directly to you, the Greeley student, and tries to be as accessible as possible. The tone is meant to convey the idea that the Handbook is your personal guide through the Historia research process.

d. Depth:

The handbook is not a bare-bones outline but rather a fully developed guide to the Historia process. It contains in-depth rather than minimal discussions of things. The effect is meant to be a true guide or companion that is whispering in your ear, a book that almost talks back to you to answer your questions. Learn how to identify the sections you want to read in-depth, and the sections you just want to dip into to find out something specific.

e. Focus on Thinking:

The handbook focuses on the higher-order thinking aspects of the research process. There are in-depth, reflective discussions on: question formation, thesis development, critical evaluation of sources, types of thinking, and fallacies of thinking. The "thinking about thinking" sections are meant to help you self-consciously raise the level of your own reflection.

f. Greeley-Grown:

The handbook is based on many years of experience teaching Greeley students. Much of the corrective instruction is based on the errors that Greeley students actually make in their written work.

 


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