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How History is Made: A Student’s Guide to Reading, Writing, and Thinking in the Discipline

reading and writing essays about history tutorial

Stephanie Cole, Arlington, Texas

Kimberly Breuer, Arlington, Texas

Scott W. Palmer, Arlington, Texas

ISBN 13: 9781648160066

Publisher: Mavs Open Press

Language: English

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Reviewed by Ramon Jackson, Assistant Professor of History, Newberry College on 11/4/22

This textbook was developed for HIST 3300, a history research methods course at the University of Texas-Arlington. The course doubles as a substitute for UNIV 1101, the freshman "College Life" seminar. The authors offer useful, comprehensive... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

This textbook was developed for HIST 3300, a history research methods course at the University of Texas-Arlington. The course doubles as a substitute for UNIV 1101, the freshman "College Life" seminar. The authors offer useful, comprehensive chapters on thinking, researching, writing, and performing historically as well as useful supplementary sections that offer tips for student success while in college. There are also excellent appendices that discuss how to develop and utilize databases in historical research. An issue is that the textbook was developed for UTA students which means that certain information will not apply to those outside of that university system.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

How History is Made offers practical advice for undergraduate and graduate History students and continuing scholars alike. It accurately and concisely documents the evolution of the historical profession and outlines how students can utilize the training provided in History courses and programs as future professionals. The authors provide numerous examples of how race and ethnicity have shaped academic and Public History but sometimes fall short of providing readers with an understanding of how specific skills such as oral history may be more difficult to apply in Black and marginalized communities or the obstacles one may face as minorities within the profession.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

Substantial sections of the information offered in this textbook are timeless, specifically the sections that instruct students about how to think, research, write, and perform historically. The chapters on "Digital History" and Public History may need to be revised later due to increased participation and innovation in these fields. Instructors outside of the UTA system will need to supplement the use of this book with their own research and writing activities and versions of parts VI-VIII to provide skills, resources, and advice for future graduates that best reflect conditions on their own campuses.

Clarity rating: 4

The authors did a fine job of providing readers with an accessible, concise, and useful textbook that examines the history of the historical profession and provides useful strategies, skills, and resources for success in the field. Minor grammatical errors and occasional formatting issues obstructed the flow of specific chapters but, overall, the authors made a compelling case for the value of historical thought, research, and writing among undergraduate students and future professionals in every discipline.

Consistency rating: 4

The text is consistent and avoids jargon, slang, and other unnecessary mistakes that would distract or confuse readers. How History is Made is accessible for undergraduate and graduate students in History and other disciplines.

Modularity rating: 4

How History is Made is easy to follow and would serve as an excellent course textbook for introductory, special topics, and upper-level History courses that emphasize critical thinking, research, and writing as key learning outcomes or assign research papers or "Un-Essay" projects as final projects. This book is also useful for "College 101" or "College/University Life" courses offered to provide study skills and knowledge to freshmen and sophomores. I definitely plan to use this book to scaffold the research and writing process in my special topics and upper-level History courses. Certain sections may even be useful for providing introductory level History students with an understanding of the origins and evolution of the historical profession and/or knowledge about how professional historians utilize a variety of sources to craft arguments, interpret the past, and offer compelling and profound narratives about the relevance of our shared history to contemporary life.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

How History Is Made is organized in a logical, clear fashion.

Interface rating: 4

The pdf version of the book contains minor grammatical errors and a few charts and lists that could distract or confuse the reader.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

See the above comment.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

One issue with How History is Made is the authors' assertion that the historical discipline is different than "history that everyone owns." This seems to detract from their efforts to offer students from all disciplines the skills and knowledge related to "thinking historically." Additionally, there are moments where greater attention to the experiences of historians from Black and marginalized communities is warranted, specifically the sections on becoming a professional historian and the chapter on oral history. If you decide to use this book, it would be a good idea to pair it with studies and interviews featuring scholars from diverse backgrounds to challenge and complicate some of the assertions made about how history is written and performed. One size does not fit all. Practitioners of digital history may not find this book useful due to the brevity of the information provided.

I enjoyed reading this book and plan to use it as a main or supplementary text to help my students learn to think, research, write, and perform historically. I look forward to seeing if it helps them to improve as researchers and scholars.

Table of Contents

  • About the Publisher
  • About this Project
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • I. Thinking Historically
  • II. Reading Historically
  • III. Researching Historically
  • IV. Writing Historically
  • V. Performing Historically
  • VI. Skills for Success
  • VII. UTA Campus Resources
  • VIII. Degree Planning and Beyond, Advice from the UTA History Department
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix A- Database Rules and Datatypes
  • Appendix B - Working With Multiple Tables
  • Appendix C- Database Troubleshooting and Coding
  • Appendix D- Database Design and Parts of a Database
  • Appendix E- Writing Criteria/ Example Rubric
  • Image Credits
  • Accessibility Rubric
  • Errata and Versioning History

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Learn what it means to think like an historian! Units on “Thinking Historically,” “Reading Historically,” “Researching Historically,” and “Writing Historically” describe the essential skills of the discipline of history. “Performing Historically” offers advice on presenting research findings and describes some careers open to those with an academic training in history.

About the Contributors

Stephanie Cole received her PhD in History from the University of Flordia in 1994 and has taught the introduction to historical methods, as well as courses in women’s history, the history of work, history of sexuality and marriage and related topics at UT Arlington since 1996.  Her most recent publication is the co-edited volume  Texas Women: Their Histories, Their Lives  (University of Georgia Press, 2015).

Kimberly Breuer received her PhD in History from Vanderbilt University in 2004 and has been at UT Arlington since 2004. She regularly teaches the introduction to historical methods, as well as courses in the history of science and technology and Iberian history. Her research centers on the relationship between student (team-based) creation of OER content, experiential learning, and student engagement; student mapped learning pathways and self-regulated learning; interactive and game-based learning.

Scott   W.  Palmer received his PhD in History from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1997. From his arrival at UT Arlington in 2016 until Fall 2022, he served as  Chair of the Department of History. He  regularly teaches courses on Russian/Soviet History, Flight Culture and the Human Experience, and History of Video Games, along with upper level offerings in the History of Technology and Science.” “ He is author  of  Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia  (Cambridge University Press, 2006),  co-editor of  Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine in Russia’s Great War and Revolution  ( Slavica , 2022), and editor of the forthcoming c ollection  Flight Culture and the Human Experience  (Texas A&M University Press, 2023).

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COMMENTS

  1. How History is Made: A Student’s Guide to Reading, Writing

    Learn what it means to think like an historian! Units on “Thinking Historically,” “Reading Historically,” “Researching Historically,” and “Writing Historically” describe the essential skills of the discipline of history. “Performing Historically” offers advice on presenting research findings and describes some careers open to those with an academic training in history.

  2. Writing History Essays (WHE)

    5.8. History essays are written in the past tense, not present tense. Do not switch back and forth between past and present tense in the same sentence or paragraph. 5.9. In a History essay, never use “the 18th century,” “the 1700s” or “the seventeen hundreds.”. The correct form is “the eighteenth century.”. 5.10.