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History 400W
Spring 2011
Prof. John Putman




The Historians' Craft






                History 400W is the gateway course for the History Major at San Diego State University.  The course is designed to introduce students to historical methods, theory, and writing in the discipline of history through a close examination of one field of historical inquiry.  Among the topics covered in the course are research methods, bibliography and citation, uses of evidence and argumentation, interpretation, and debate within the discipline. In short, the goal of this course is to help you think like a historian and better understand the nature of the discipline.  This semester, the course will focus on the Cold War from an American perspective.  We will explore the Cold War from a variety of angles and perspectives, including politics, diplomacy, culture, gender and the family and examine how historians have interpreted this momentous period in American history.



  • Conal Furay and Michael Salevouris, The Methods and Skills of History (3rd ed.)
  • Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
  • Michael Galgano, et. al. Doing History: Research and Writing in the Digital Age
  • James West Davidson and Mark Hamilton Lytle,  After the Fact, Vol. 2

      Additional readings and documents will be handed out in class or available online or on Blackboard.


Grades will be based on two short essays, a book review, a 15-page paper, weekly write-ups, and class participation.  Class participation includes classroom discussions, short presentations, and attendance.

  • Weekly Write-ups: 10%
  • Article-Book Essay: 15%
  • Analysis of Book Reviews: 10%
  • Book Review: 15%
  • Historiography Paper: 25%
  • Class Participation: 25%

Course Format: This class meets one day per week for 2 hours and 40 minutes.  This course is a seminar, meaning that the majority of our time will be spent discussing weekly readings.  Attendance, of course, is required and will impact your participation grade. Thus, students enrolled in History 400W must be willing and committed to read, analyze, and discuss the readings and participate in both class discussions of readings and in-class presentations.    Our success depends on each student being an active participant in the course and I will insure this by calling on students at random to help students participate in the learning process. Building a scholarly community also depends on listening and respecting your colleagues’ comments and opinions.    


Student Learning Goals: 1. Students will analyze the nature of historical inquiry and identify the factors that shape the discipline.      
2. Students will appraise the relationship between the discipline of history and American society and politics.
3. Students will explore and critically analyze both primary and secondary source material.
4. Students will probe the nature of historical interpretation.
5. Students will construct a historiographical paper.
A brief note on grades:  A student will earn an “A” for only excellent and outstanding work.  A “B” represents very good work, which means more than just doing the job.  A “C” is given to those who demonstrate adequate competence and satisfactory completion of assignments.  “D” work is that which fails to demonstrate competence and/or fails to fully complete the assignment.  I don’t think I need to explain the meaning of an “F” to you. Finally, I always assume that each student puts his or her full effort into an assignment, so please don’t try to make a case for a higher grade based on how much time and effort you put into an assignment.  I can only grade performance not effort. SDSU Academic Honesty Policy: Institutions of higher education are founded to impart knowledge, seek truth, and encourage one’s development for the good of society. University students shall thus be intellectually and morally obliged to pursue their course of studies with honesty and integrity. Therefore, in preparing and submitting materials for academic courses and in taking examinations, a student shall not yield to cheating or plagiarism, which not only violate academic standards but also make the offender liable to penalties explicit in Title 5.

Cheating shall be defined as the act of obtaining or attempting to obtain credit for academic work by the use of dishonest, deceptive, or fraudulent means. Examples of cheating include, but are not limited to (a) copying, in part or in whole, from another’s test or other examination; (b) discussing answers or ideas relating to the answers on a test or other examination without the permission of the instructor; (c) obtaining copies of a test, an examination, or other course material without the permission of the instructor; (d) using notes, cheat sheets, or other devices considered inappropriate under the prescribed testing condition; (e) collaborating with another or others in work to be presented without the permission of the instructor; (f) falsifying records, laboratory work, or other course data; (g) submitting work previously presented in another course, if contrary to the rules of the course; (h) altering or interfering with the grading procedures; (i) plagiarizing, as defined; and (j) knowingly and intentionally assisting another student in any of the above.
Plagiarism shall be defined as the act of incorporating ideas, words, or specific substance of another, whether purchased, borrowed, or otherwise obtained, and submitting same to the University as one’s own work to fulfill academic requirements without giving credit to the appropriate source. Plagiarism shall include but not be limited to (a) submitting work, either in part or in whole, completed by another; (b) omitting footnotes for ideas, statements, facts, or conclusions that belong to another; (c) omitting quotation marks when quoting directly from another, whether it be a paragraph, sentence, or part thereof; (d) close and lengthy paraphrasing of the writings of another; (e) submitting another person’s artistic works, such as musical compositions, photographs, paintings, drawings, or sculptures; and (f) submitting as one’s own work papers purchased from research companies. Those guilty of committing plagiarism or cheating will receive an F for both the assignment and the entire course.

“Students agree that by taking this course all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to Blackboard's SafeAssign for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the SafeAssign reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. You may submit your papers in such a way that no identifying information about you is included. Another option is that you may request, in writing, that your papers not be submitted to SafeAssign. However, if you choose this option you will be required to provide documentation to substantiate that the papers are your original work and do not include any plagiarized material.”

Class Etiquette: Please arrive on time and do not leave before the end of class unless you inform me prior to class.  Also, please be sure cell phones are off or on silent and not visible on your desk. This includes no text messaging while in class. Finally, laptops can only be used to take notes. Students who use a laptop must email their notes to me at the end of class to prove that the laptop was used for notes only .