Historical Research Workshop



On Hiatus

Where’s the Workshop this semester?  

We are happy to announce that the department has responded to students’ desire for a methodology course and is piloting History 104: The Craft of History with Prof. Mark Peterson and several grad student instructors this semester.  Meanwhile, 3 of 4 facilitators are currently writing their senior theses.

What does this mean for the future of the Workshop?  

We’re not sure yet.  Depending on demand, Jonathan and Michelle may be offering another section in the Fall.  Pedro and I will be graduating in May.  It’s been a long journey since the Workshop began as an idea on a Google doc, and we’re pretty happy with what we’ve managed to accomplish in the intervening two years.

Interested in facilitating?

There’s no better way to learn something than to teach it.  Whether you’re already a research wunderkind or just finished taking the class, training to become a facilitator will hone your own research skills and make you super conscious about your own methodology.  Facilitating is an education in itself, but it’s particularly useful for those interested in academia, librarianship, or teaching.  The two most important qualities in facilitators are enthusiasm and an earnest desire to help others.  We’ll supply the rest (and 2 units of credit!).  Please contact me at cvilla100 AT berkeley dot edu if you are considering it.  The deadline for paperwork will be in early April.

Exploring the Bancroft Library

Hey y’all, next week (9/30-10/4) we’re going to be hanging out in the Bancroft Library. As the best run housing source for primary and rare sources on campus, the Bancroft will undoubtedly prove as a valuable source through your collegiate career.

Bancroft670 Banfrcot 1


Before our trip to the Bancroft, we will be reading Exploring the Bancroft Library, The Centennial Guide to Its Extraordinary History, Spectacular Special Collections, Research Pleasures, Its Amazing Future, and How it All Works. While the title may be a bit grandiose, this piece provides a good overview of some of the Bancroft’s main collections – including the likes of Western Americana, Latin Americana, and the collection of Tebtunis Papyri, amongst others, of course.

Do any of these collections appeal to you as an individual or for your research projects? Is there anything that you would like to know in particular about the Bancroft?

Recap, Week 4: Questions, Keywords, Catalogs

This week we explored starting the research process on the right foot by formulating a question, generating a keyword cloud, and tips and tricks for getting the most out of your library catalog searches.

Prezi (full screen recommended):

Journal Prompt:
Formulate your own TQR statement and break it down to create your own keyword cloud. Use OskiCat to find a book in Main Stacks (or some other library) on your topic. Browse its table of contents, index, and skim its introduction and tell us about what you learned. What are the major categories that your topic is broken up into? Did you find new keywords in the index? What are you interested in learning more about next?

If you’re having trouble coming up with keywords for your topic, visit the reference room on the second floor of Doe to browse specialized encyclopedias. We also highly recommend making an appointment with Jennifer Dorner, the History specialist at the library. You can contact her at jdorner@library.berkeley.edu. Check out her blog to get updates on the library’s new resources.

Next week:
We’ll be talking about online databases and research tools. If you have a laptop, please bring it to class and get your proxy server set up before class.


Week 4 Reading: Grafton,The Footnote

Footnotes are wonderful.

Former President of the American Historical Association, Anthony T. Grafton’s The Footnote: A Curious History provides a concise history of (you guessed it) the footnote. From tracing the development of the footnote from its origins to the role in the maturation of modern scholarship, Grafton pays tribute to the subscript that is often overlooked and underutilized. Footnotes!


The Footnote


Grafton, Anthony T. The Footnote: A Curious History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Regardless of using them to find new research leads or to determine the credibility and ideological bend of the author (read the chapter to find out what else they can be used for), footnotes allow us a higher level of interaction and evaluation of our texts. This being said, some other things y’all might want to think about are other uses can you find in footnotes? And what can you learn from a closer look of the footnotes in your own books? What are the limitations? In general, what are the contours of the evolution of the footnote?

Good health, good spirits, and good reading,




Reading: “From Topics to Questions” from The Craft of Research (2008)

For your first reading response,you’ll be reading an excerpt from The Craft of Research by William Booth, Gregory C. Colomb, and Joseph Williams. Booth, Colomb, and Williams were English Language at Literature at the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia and together developed The Little Red Schoolhouse , a curriculum for introducing undergrads to academic and professional writing.While The Craft of Research is not written specifically for the historical discipline, the book is a useful reference about the research process for undergraduates. The authors stress that they wrote the book with the assumption that “Despite the differences between beginners and experienced researchers…their challenges are pretty much the same.”

Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

This particular chapter gives you several suggestions for ways to discover topics and turn them into research questions. One useful device is the topic-question-rationale statement.

1. topic: I am studying ______.

2. question: because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how _______.

3. rationale: in order to help my reader understand how _______.

Here’s one of the examples the authors give us:

1. I am working on Lincoln’s beliefs about predestination in his early speeches

2. because I want to find out how his belief in destiny and God’s will influenced his understanding of the causes of the Civil War

3. in order to help my reader understand how his religious beliefs may have influenced his military decisions

Don’t get too hung up on crafting the perfect TQR statement right now. Instead of viewing the TQR as a guiding compass for your research, think of it as a tool you could use in your weekly research assignments. Writing these statements down each week is one way of watching how your research evolves over the course of the semester.

The authors remind us that the rationale is the hardest part of the statement to answer.  By working through the academic literature of your field through reading seminars, practicing new lenses of analysis in your courses, and staying in consultation with a professor (someone who is an expert in their field and is tuned in to the most pressing concerns of scholarly discourse at the moment), you’ll discover questions that remain unaddressed by academic literature or are deserving of more nuanced analysis.

I’ll leave you with some advice from the authors:

“Don’t fall in love with your first answer; always hope that you’ll find a better one.”

If you’re interested in consulting the rest of the book, you can access an electronic copy of it through UC Berkeley’s library.


Welcome to Fall 2013!

We are happy to announce there will once again be two sections offered this semester!

Section 1: Wednesday 10 – 12 AM, 204 Dwinelle

Camille Villa, History 2014
Office Hours: TBA

Pedro Hernandez, History 2014
Office Hours: TBA

Section 2: Monday 2 – 4 PM, 80 Barrows

Jonathan Scott, History 2015
Office Hours: TBA

Michelle Min, History 2014
Office Hours: TBA

To Apply :

1. Submit an online application
2. Attend one of the enrollment classes, 9/9 or 9/11.


CCNs will be distributed by Saturday morning, 9/14.  If the class reaches full capacity before then, you will be notified immediately if you are on the wait list.

This 2 unit class is a supportive community open to all levels of research experience.  Furthermore, the class is open to all majors, though do keep in mind that research topics must be historical in scope.  If you have any questions, about the class or would like to begin discussing your research topic, you can reach the facilitators at: historicalresearchworkshop AT gmail.com.


You can also talk to us in person this Friday (8/30) at the DeCal Expo on Upper Sproul from 5:00 – 7:00 PM!