What are Hist 300 and 586?

Enrollment in HIST 300 is open to all interested students; requires Departmental permission to enroll.

Enrollment in HIST 586 is restricted to History majors ONLY.

HIST 300, our "gateway class," provides history majors and other students with an introduction to the ideas, concepts, and skills required to earn a history degree. More specifically, we have designed the class to achieve the following:

  1. Convey a sense of "what it means to be a historian."
  2. Explain how a major in history is different from other majors.
  3. Introduce the concept of "historical thought," emphasizing the importance of perspective, complexity, and ambiguity in the historian's work.
  4. Provide instruction and exercises in the essential skills required of a history major. These include:
    • Locating and researching online databases.
    • Locating and researching manuscript collections.
    • Learning Chicago Manual of Style citation style.
    • Applying the fundamentals required to prepare research papers, book reviews, critical essays and case studies.
    • Locating and using reviews in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals.
    • Locating and assessing "academic" websites.
    • Preparing and delivering oral presentations.
    • Conducting oral interviews and presenting the results.
    • Mastering the basics of library use.
    • Preparing and delivering critiques.


HIST 586 focuses on developing the skills, techniques, and methods required to research and complete a major research project (what in former times would have been called your college "thesis"). Please note that 586s have broad organizing topics, e.g., Nineteenth-Century America or Imperialism. You will research a subject consistent with the broader topic of your particular 586.

The exact form of the final product varies by professor, but a 25-page research paper is typical. Your research paper will not merely offer a narrative history or explanation of your topic but instead will present and support a new perspective and argument that differs significantly from currently existing scholarship. First, you will be adding to historical knowledge through a new interpretation of your topic. Second, the sources you employ in preparing your paper will be mainly primary sources - documents produced by the historical actors involved. Third, you will drive much of the class's content and discussion. For example, in many 586s you will prepare a PowerPoint presentation of your penultimate draft and will be responsible for formal critiques of your classmates' work.

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