HIST 250 Historical Research and Writing (Spring 2015)

The Atlantic Worlds of Benjamin FranklinFranklinHeader

This course is an intensive introduction to the craft of the historian and to the history major at Framingham State. This semester you will learn how historians read and conduct research by doing so yourself. We will all be undertaking work within a common topic (see below), but this course is not really about the “worlds of Benjamin Franklin.” Rather, we will use the common set of questions and sources to think about how to understand historiography, methodology, research skills, and writing.

Our Topic

Benjamin Franklin was among the most visible and significant American figures of the eighteenth century. A resident of four cities—Boston, Philadelphia, London, and Paris—for extended periods of time, his life spanned the Atlantic Ocean and the world it created. In this seminar, each student will use the life, interests, and ideas of Franklin as an entry point to investigate life in North America, Britain, and for the truly bold, France, during the eighteenth century. Using the Papers of Benjamin Franklin (available online), each student will design a project based on one of the topics and issues in which Franklin was interested and involved during his career. This can include a wide array of topics in eighteenth-century life, including (but not limited to): printing; science and medicine; politics at the local, colonial/state, national, and imperial levels; diplomacy; religion; commerce; the role of women in society; voluntary associations; relations with Native Americans; and the American Revolution.


  • Understand the methodology of historical research—including use of the Chicago Style format, reference materials, bibliographic research using traditional and electronic resources, critical evaluation of primary and secondary materials, and synthesis—and integration of this methodology into historical research and writing.
  • Understand proper historical questions/hypotheses, argumentation based upon evidence, and theories and trends of historical interpretation, and demonstrate the ability to communicate this knowledge in writing. Display knowledge and evaluation of the historiography relevant to the student’s topic of research through composition of assignment(s) such as a scholarly book review, a literature review, or a thorough discussion of the historiography of the topic under study in the final research paper.
  • Know how to propose a viable set of questions to guide research, compose a preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and draft an outline of topics to address over the course of an analytical essay.
  • Compose a 15-20-page historical analytical essay that proposes an argument developed by the student, situates it within the relevant historiography, and substantiates it through in-depth analysis of a wide range of properly-cited primary and secondary sources.

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