Final Countdown

I’m a bit late for this update, for good reason. I’m in the final days of preparing for a research trip to the National Archives and Library of Congress. I’ll be in the DC area for close to 5 weeks. There’s a LOT to get done before then.

I hired an editor for the YouTube channel, and the first video she completed went live last week. I’m really pleased with her work and especially with the collaboration, and this means that Aytch 3 can move forward. Right now I’m staying on the every two weeks posting schedule because of this 5 week trip coming up. I don’t have the mental space to finish more than a couple of scripts in progress, so I’m getting what I can done and off to the editor. Right now I’m set through the middle of October, and I need 5 more to finish out the year. That’s a project for when I’ve arrived in Maryland.

I’m preloading weeks of lecture now, so that when I’m there I’ll only have to grade assignments. I also have to prep for the spring semester, but that’s a story for another day. And probably another video idea, now that I think about it.

The spanner in the works of all of this is that my long term storage device died spectacularly, and I spent a month coming to terms with the loss of 10 years of research materials. Happily, a data recovery service was able to get the raw data back. I have the spreadsheets! I’ll need to rebuild my file storage structure to see what’s missing, but once I do that I can get that stuff pretty easily. (I’m so glib here – it’s over 40,000 images!)

But rebuilding the storage structure is a project for after I’m back from the research trip. I know what my job for November – April is going to be and I’m excited about it! I’ll be able to finish some of the From the Archives scripts I had working because I finally will have the citations back. And I’ll be able to write more.

It’s busy, for sure. I’m still figuring this all out.

How To Do Research For a Project

I largely teach Introduction to World History, which at my university, is a general education requirement and has no prerequisites. I teach based on skills, rather than content, and one of those skills is research and analysis. So I assign a semester-long research project, and I also assign a series of research process assignments, to give them checkpoints along the way. So many students get stuck not knowing how to do research or even what research really means. This process is designed to help them through the whole process.

I create assignments that first discover where students are – their own personal baseline – and then assess based on improvement from there. It’s open-ended, and helps me assess their progress by asking for more and more analysis and writing from them at each level, culminating in a final project. 

So, to those who would like to know, here’s how I (and you) “do research” and produce a final project.

First: The Topic

Select the topic YOU want to study. You’re doing the work, so you need to be interested in it. If you’re not interested, you won’t finish, or if you do, it will be painful. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small. As long as the story matters to someone, it matters. History is the story of human choice, and is marked by change over time. People make choices, other people react to those choices, and the world changes a little or a lot. That’s history – scale isn’t the important thing.

The idea that history is serious and must always tackle “serious” topics is classist, racist, and sexist – because those “serious topics” are political and intellectual histories of government and international politics. So many questions abound about everyday life and how people just like us, but because they’re the histories of marginalized groups like women, people of color, queer folks, and disabled folks, they’ve been minimized. And because several of these topics, like sports, makeup, and fashion, are considered “frivolous” in our society today, many students think these are inappropriate or unacceptable topics for their history projects. 

Ugh. No. Everything has a history. Small, huge, homely or the stories of kings – all of it has value and deserves study. And if that’s what you want to do, then do it.

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