Goals & Guidelines

HIST 190 is a writing course with special emphasis on the disciplinary concerns of writing in history. Building on the interdisciplinary composition course English 110, it teaches students how to write meaningfully about history, using the rhetorical moves and research tools that prove most useful to scholarly historians.


The primary goal of History 190 is to help students transfer the knowledge they gain about interdisciplinary writing in ENG 110 to succeed in the history major.

To accomplish that, HIST 190 teaches:

  • Interpretation of diverse historical primary sources (diaries, memoirs, government documents, letters, political or philosophical tracts, speeches, and audio/visual sources)
  • Comprehension of historical scholarship, and the framing of historical questions (about cause/effect or continuity/change over time) grounded in secondary literature
  • Independent research conducted with historical databases and cited in Chicago/Turabian format
  • The rhetorical conventions that scholars use to answer historical questions (e.g., a contestable thesis, analysis of primary evidence and engagement with secondary literature, citation of sources)



In every section of HIST 190, students will write at least 4 graded assignments, one of which must incorporate research. Students will revise each essay in conversation with each other and the instructor.

Possible types of graded assignments include:

  • A primary source interpretation that includes a close reading of the source’s subtext and an exploration/analysis of its historical context and significance.
  • A response paper, summary/distillation, or other form of response to a secondary source text that conveys the nature of its argument and adds some form of critical analysis or commentary.
  • An annotated bibliography or historiographical essay that relates a variety of sources to each other in response to some research question, or as some kind of historical “conversation.” This assignment is most likely to include the required independent research.
  • An analytical essay evaluating a variety of both primary and secondary sources in service of an argument that attempts to resolve some problem of historical significance.
  • A creative assignment that asks students to place themselves in a given historical context, and use their writing to explore significant questions of place, disruption, identity, etc.

In addition, HIST 190 encourages:

  • Ungraded assignments that lead into graded assignments
  • Readings that serve both as examples of specific writing skills being covered and as content for discussions and assignments
  • An organization of the course around writing goals, rather than around historical content, to reflect the hierarchy of course goals and its place in the college curriculum
  • A relatively narrow content theme, sufficient that students will achieve a common vocabulary and sufficient background knowledge to build on in their essays
  • Some kind of portfolio or other means of collecting and giving feedback (and perhaps some amount of effort/improvement credit) on informal exercises
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