HSTRY 596 A: History Research Seminar

Winter 2024
T 12:30pm - 2:20pm / SMI 306
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Welcome to HSTRY 596-7!

Instructor: Charity Urbanski (urbanski@uw.edu)

Office: 316B Smith

Office Hours: Mondays 3:30-4:30 and Tuesdays 3-4, or by appointment


This two-quarter seminar (winter and spring) is designed to aid graduate students in producing a history research paper in the area of each student’s expertise. The final paper should be article length (10,000-12,000 words, including footnotes) and should be of publishable quality, with a strong argument grounded in a rich array of primary and secondary sources. The finished paper should be deeply researched, insightfully analytical, and highly polished, representing your best work. Please note that all students should choose a project based on research to which they have access over the duration of the seminar.

This seminar will guide students through the relevant steps and skills, including historical inquiry, the conceptual design of a research project, conducting original research, interpreting historical evidence, writing, and revising. In this course, we will break down the overall process into smaller, more manageable steps, providing specialized, close guidance and feedback, while cultivating a supportive but constructively critical community of readers. This will be done with the guidance of both myself (as the instructor) and with a faculty advisor with relevant subject-area expertise.

Over the two quarters, students will share and reflect on the challenges and opportunities of conducting historical research, interpreting sources, engaging with historiography, and writing. We will work collaboratively as we circulate and critique short assignments, in addition to rough and final drafts of the papers.

In this course, students will:

  • develop and hone research skills
  • reflectively develop and practice writing skills
  • engage in historical writing as a specific genre of writing with discipline-specific conventions, while being expansive enough to broaden the intellectual reach of history writing in meaningful ways
  • develop and practice skills in public presentation of research findings
  • develop and practice skills in constructive criticism and workshopping


During several of our sessions, we will discuss relevant secondary literature (specific assignments are listed and linked in the weekly schedule below).

There are no assigned books to purchase for HSTRY 596-7. Students are responsible for acquiring the texts necessary for their research projects. You may also wish to acquire a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., which maps out the discipline-specific style and citation guidelines for writing history. An online version is also available through the UW Libraries. Whether you use the hard copy or an online version, you should become familiar with this manual.

Additionally, each student will be using bibliographic software, such as EndNote or Zotero. These are also available through the UW Libraries, or are available for purchase.


HSTRY 596-7 is unusual in that the final grade for the two-quarter seminar is cumulative and based on student work over both quarters. It is critical that you complete all of the assignments, attend all of the class sessions, and participate in discussions.

15% - Discussion, participation, and feedback

15% - Drafts and short assignments

70% - Final paper (grade determined jointly by faculty mentor and me)


Faculty Mentors

Each student needs to arrange for a faculty mentor to guide them through this project of the research paper. Usually this is the chair or a co-chair of a student’s MA and/or PhD committee. This person should be a subject expert in the field of the student’s specialty. Please confirm faculty mentors by Friday, January 12 by emailing me.

Most faculty members are willing and effective mentors, but their time is limited. You should be respectful of your mentor’s time by keeping up with appointments and with the work plan you have both agreed upon, preparing questions ahead of meetings, taking short but precise notes during consultations, meeting deadlines, and making conscientious use of email and in-person sessions.


We will approach the research paper through a number of shorter assignments. The due dates for these assignments (when the item is turned in to peer reviewers, faculty mentors, and me for feedback) are as follows:

Proposal (due January 22 at noon, workshop January 23)

This 500-750 word document (roughly 2-3 pages) is designed to get students thinking concretely about their research projects. This document should include:

  • your research question(s)
  • explanation of why the question is significant (the “so what?” explanation)
  • preliminary/possible answers to the research question(s)
  • relationship of the project to broader historiography or historiographies and discussion of what unique contribution this project might make to them
  • description of the planned primary sources you will consult


Prospectus (due February 5 at noon, workshop February 6)
This kind of document is an early step in the process of research-based, argument-driven historical writing. Written for historians outside the area of expertise, the 1,200- to 1,500-word prospectus (roughly five to six pages) should elaborate on the topics covered in the shorter proposal. This document should include:

  • A clear statement of the problem or question, along with possible subordinate questions
  • Description of the new contribution(s) this project will make
  • Explanation of why the topic is relevant (“so what”)
  • Relationship of the topic to existing historiography (intervention)
  • Brief description of sources
  • Brief outline of how the work will be done

The prospectus should also include a preliminary bibliography of primary sources (one page) and secondary sources (two pages, and formatted to Chicago Manual of Style). Please format the bibliography with single spacing, but use a line break between each item. The bibliography is in addition to the prospectus itself.


Outline (due February 19 at noon, workshop February 20)

This two- to three-page, double spaced outline offers the sequence of ideas in the development and support of the larger argument being made in the paper. The outline should break the larger project into sections. The overall argument of the paper should be articulated in the outline, along with the supporting arguments of each section. 


7-10 page Draft (due March 1 at 5 pm, workshop March 5)

The short draft is meant to be precisely that—a rough draft of the first 7-10 pages of your research paper. Drafts should contain citations, be double-spaced, use a standard 12 point font, and have 1 inch margins. 

Drafts are important milestones in the writing process. They will be workshopped in class and reviewed by each student’s faculty mentor and me.


All of the short writing assignments will be evaluated by your peers in this seminar, along with the instructor (and in many instances, the faculty mentor). Each peer evaluator should offer constructive feedback designed to improve the quality of the piece. Offering and receiving constructive feedback are important skills we will practice in this seminar. Students are expected to be open about their ideas and to respond constructively to the ideas and work of others.


Because participation is fundamental to the seminar’s success, I expect each of you to come to class having digested the readings and having prepared helpful, constructive feedback on each other’s work. Be prepared to contribute questions and comments. Please be particularly mindful that this class is taught as a workshop; planned reading and feedback depends on the full availability of students for the scheduled class sessions and for work to be submitted on time.


  • The classroom is a professional space where we come to work. It does not mean impersonal, inflexible, or unfriendly. However, we all are expected to come prepared with reading and written assignments done, and engage our peers attentively and with respect.
  • Students should arrive on time to every class. Late arrivals are inconsiderate and distracting to your classmates and the instructor.
  • No one should miss class except under extraordinary circumstances. If you must miss class, please contact me beforehand. Absences will have a negative impact on your grade.
  • Meet deadlines.
  • Students are responsible for successful class discussion. You are expected to read all assigned material on time and to make an effort to participate in class discussions. Pertinent questions, comments, and/or suggestions are always welcome in class.
  • Write clearly, concisely, and coherently. Not only must you develop a critical argument effectively, but the presentation of your work will also be taken into account. I expect all work to be typed and double-spaced, using 12 point font and 1-inch margins. You should also include page numbers and your name.
  • Email protocol: All emails to the instructor and class peers should be written in formal language and professional format. I check my work email during regular business hours (M-F 8-5) and will reply within 24 hours during the week. It may take longer during the weekend.
  • Electronic devices (computers, cell phones, tablets) can only be used for class-related activities (i.e. note-taking).
  • Cell phones should be turned-off or in vibrating mode.
  • Bring assigned readings and materials for taking notes with you to class.


I am committed to fostering a class environment that is open and welcoming to all students, and to providing an atmosphere of support and affirmation for all people. Do not display disrespectful behavior toward any individual based upon age, ability, race/color/ethnicity, religious/spiritual, political affiliation, socioeconomic status, immigration status, marital status, military/veteran status, gender identity/expressions, sexual/affectional orientations, relationship status, and/or anything that is likely to be perceived as disrespectful to someone’s background, culture, or identity. Unprofessional, derogatory, and/or offensive behavior may result in disciplinary action. Please note that encouraging respect is not meant to prevent serious debate about important issues. Keep in mind, however, that our ultimate goal is to question the logics that create and maintain the historical marginalization of individuals and communities. If you have serious concerns about classroom climate, please contact me immediately.


If you anticipate or experience barriers to your learning or full participation in this course based on a physical, learning, or mental health disability, please contact me to discuss possible accommodations. If you have, or think you have, a temporary or permanent disability that impacts your participation in any course, please also contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS) at:  206-543-8924 V / 206-543-8925 TDD / uwdss@uw.edu e-mail / http://www.uw.edu/students/drs.


Students are expected to adhere to the University of Washington policies on academic integrity, especially in regard to plagiarism. Plagiarism can take multiple forms including but not limited to the direct copying of other people’s written words from books, websites, or other students’ essays; the copying of other people’s ideas or interpretations without proper acknowledgement; or the copying of the structure of an argument from somebody else’s work. Cases of plagiarism will be punished to the fullest extent that university policy allows. If you have any doubts about what constitutes plagiarism at the University of Washington, please, browse the following link:





The instructor reserves the right to change or add readings and assignments as deemed appropriate over the course of the semester.  It is the students’ responsibility to keep up with these changes, which will be announced in class.




Week 2 (January 9): Introductions


Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke, “What Does it Mean to Think Historically?” Perspectives 45.1 (January 2007)


Task: Contact the History Librarian, Theresa Mudrock, through her calendar at https://cal.lib.uw.edu/appointments/mudrock to set up an individual appointment to discuss your research options. Theresa can also recommend other specialist librarians, if needed. You can also find a list of these library staff here: https://www.lib.washington.edu/help/consultations. If you think you might be interested in using Special Collections, you can also contact Allee Monheim (amonheim@uw.edu).


PLEASE CONFIRM YOUR FACULTY ADVISOR WITH ME BY FRIDAY, JANUARY 12, and CC me (urbanski@uw.edu) on your initial outreach email.


Week 3 (January 16): Examples and Inspirations


Laurie Marhoefer, “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: A Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation,” American Historical Review 121.4 (October 2016): 1167-1195

Stephanie Smallwood, “African Guardians, European Slave Ships, and the Changing Dynamics of Power in the Early Modern Atlantic,” William and Mary Quarterly 64.4 (October 2007): 679-716


Things to consider for discussion:

  • What is the research question and/or thesis at the heart of this article?
  • How are the specific research questions connected to larger questions and issues?
  • What sources do the authors use (primary and secondary)?
  • How are the articles organized? Provide a basic outline.
  • How do authors build their arguments? How do authors engage with the existing historiography and debate with other scholars?
  • How would you describe the quality of the writing? What are the elements in their introductions and conclusions?


Task: Begin assembling and updating the list of primary and secondary sources for your research project.


PROPOSAL DUE: January 22 at noon

Week 4 (January 23): Proposal Workshop

No reading

In-Class Activity: Workshop project proposals


    1. Continue assembling or updating list of primary and secondary sources
    2. Work on secondary reading and conduct research
    3. Building on proposal feedback, begin drafting prospectus

Week 5 (January 30): Primary Sources and Note Taking


David Ransel, “The Ability to Recognize a Good Source,” Perspectives 48.7 (October 2010)

Judith Walkowitz, “On Taking Notes,” Perspectives 47.1 (January 2009)


In-Class Activities:

    1. Zotero workshop 
    2.  Introduce the class to a promising primary source or collection, or a critical piece of secondary literature relevant for your research

Task: Continue secondary reading and conduct research



Week 6 (February 6): Prospectus and Bibliography Workshop

No reading

In-Class Activity: Workshop prospectuses and preliminary bibliographies

Task: Continue secondary reading and conduct research


OUTLINE DUE: February 12 at noon

Week 7 (February 13): Outline Workshop

No reading

In-Class Activity: Workshop outlines


1. Continue secondary reading and conduct research

2. Begin writing draft of paper


Week 8 (February 20): Crafting Your Narrative


Lynn Hunt, “How Writing Leads to Thinking,” Perspectives 48.2 (February 2010)

Deborah E. Harkness, “Finding the Story,” Perspectives 47.1 (January 2009)

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Crafting Histories: For Whom Does One Write?” Perspectives 48.3 (March 2010)

In-Class Activity: Report on what is working well? Any challenges?

Task: Continue writing draft of paper

Week 9 (February 27): NO CLASS – WORK ON YOUR DRAFTS


DRAFT OF PAPER (7-10 PAGES) DUE: March 1 at 5 pm

Week 10 (March 5): Draft Workshop

In-Class Activity: Workshop drafts

Catalog Description:
Advanced historical research seminar. First in a series of two.
Last updated:
May 23, 2024 - 6:32 pm