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Chapter 16 Historical Research

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Chapter 16 Complete

May 2 Lecture 1

May 2 Lecture 2


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#3(List the major steps involved in doing a historical research study)p. 518


from "Pearls of Wisdom"

"…all researchers are historians to some extent. In doing research, they must review the literature to determine what past theoretical work and previous studies have been done on a particular problem. Also, the validity of past research findings about education will depend on how much the context in which they were obtained has changed. Furthermore, the search for relevant documents (journal articles, technical reports, unpublished manuscripts, etc.) and interpretation of their significance are tasks that characterize the work of both empirical researchers and historians". Pg. 517


"An important criterion to consider when deciding on a problem or topic for historical research is whether key sources that you wish to investigate are available and interpretable". Pg. 520


"Historians need to have some idea of what they are looking for before they begin their search for sources that will provide the needed data". Pg. 527


According to Carr (as outlined on p.518) the common assumptions individuals make about historians work is there are two steps: the preliminary period during which the researcher reads through all his sources filling his notebooks, and the phase during which he puts away his sources and from his notes writes his book from start to finish.


The reality of historical research is more like as follows:


Variation may occur to this sequence dependent upon the research questions being asked, the circumstances of the serach for historical data and the interpretive framework being used.




#4(Describe five types of historical research in education) p. 519


  1. SOCIAL ISSUES: This is the most popular source of historical problems in education, with examples including topics such as home schooling, substance abuse among students, the effects of family violence on youth, and the replacemtn of standard paper and pencil tests with performance tests to assess competence to name just a few.

  1. STUDY OF SPECIFIC INDIVIDUALS, EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS & SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: These are motivated by the desire to "fill gaps" about what is known reagrding the past. They often have no specific question or hypotheses other than to provide further knowledge. Examples include historical studies of the educational experiences of minority groups or women, studies of higher education and teaching.

  1. EXPLORATION OF RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN EVENTS: These involve an attempt to interpret ideas or events that previously were not viewd or treated as related, but which have been revealed to reflect possible relationships.

  1. SYNTHESIS OF DATA: These are related to the previous category (EXPLORATION OF RELATIONSHIPS) and occur when there are attempts to synthesize old data collected by different historians or to merge old data with new historical facts.

  1. REINTERPRETATION OF PAST EVENTS (i.e. "revisionist" history): These critique existing histories by subjecting them to new historical frameworks. An example is those who try to prove that the Holocaust never occured.



#6(Distinguish between preliminary, primary, and secondary sources of historical information, and provide an example of each)p. 521


PRELIMINARY SOURCE - an index to secondary & promary sources, may include bibliographies...

Examples(see Appendix A, p. 600):

* Disertation Abstracts International. (1969 to date). Ann Arbor,

MI: University Microfilms International.

* Current Index to Journals in Education (CIJE). (1969 to date).

Pheonix, AZ: Oryx.


SECONDARY SOURCE - Document in which an individual gives ab account of an event, but was not present at the event. Generally based upon discriptions & records of historical events prepared by others. It is based upon the historian's current interpretation of primary and other secondary sources...

Examples (see Appendix F, p. 616):

* Bacon, D.C., Davidson, R.H., & Keller, M. (1995). Encyclopedia of the

United States Congress. New York: Simon & Schuster.

* Merriam-Webster's geographical dictionary (3rd ed.). (1997).

Springfield, MS: Merriam-Webster.


PRIMARY SOURCE - A direct report generated by individuals witnessing or participating in the event of interest. These provide the ultimate basis for the facts historians present.

There are FOUR types of primary sources.

1. Written documents or records - These are the most common, can be INTENTIONAL or UNPREMEDITATED. (Examples - diaries, notebooks, memos, etc.)

2. Quantitative records - Numerical information about an educational phenomena. (Examples - census records, school budget, school test scores, etc.)

3. Oral records - These involve the spoken word. (Examples include ballads, poems, tales, etc.)

4. Relics - Any object whose physical or unusual properties can provide information abouth the past. (Examples - textbooks, school buildings, etc.) *Note that it is possible to serve both a written document and a relic.




#8(Describe the characteristics of a historical document that one examines in carrying out external criticism)p. 525


The goal of external citicism is to determine whether the apparent or claimed origin of the document is, indeed, the actual origin of the document. Considerations (taken from the Chapter Summary handout) include, "Is it genuine?", "Is it an original?", "Who wrote it?", "When and where was it created?"... (Scientific Detective)


In other words:

1. Variant sources?

2. Authorship?

3. Place of origin?

4. Knowledge of conditions under whoch document prepared?



#9(State examples of questions that researchers ask themselves in carrying out internal criticism of historical data)p. 527


From Pearls of Wisdom...

"Internal criticism is more complex than external criticism because it includes the historian's judgment about the truth of the statements in a historical source as well as evaluation of the person who wrote them". Pg. 527


Internal criticism seeks evaluate the accuracy and worth of the statements within a historical document. Questions asked include;


  • "Is this a credible account of how people would behave?"
  • "Does the writer have strong motives to provide a biased account?"
  • "Does the writer have the expertise to describe the situation accurately?"
  • "Truthfulness?", "Exaggeration?", "Varying perceptions/Background of observer?"




#10(Distinguish between subjectivity and bias in reporting a historical event)p. 527


All accounts of historical events are subjective as they involve combinations of eyewitnesses/primary sources. Bias is a pattern of perception of events in an habitually distorted, falsified or overlooked manner. You need to look at whether that person may have a strong motive for "their" interpretation.




#11(Explain the statement, “History means interpretation.”)p. 528


From Pearls of Wisdom...

"Because history involves interpretation, historians constantly are rewriting the past as their interests and concerns change". Pg. 528


What are the historian's own values, beliefs, interests, conceptual framework, and guiding assumptions?



#13(Explain the problems of interpretation that are involved in making causal inferences from historical evidence)p. 531


From Pearls of Wisdom...

"Like other qualitative researchers, historians cannot study the entire population of individuals, settings, events and objects that interest them. Instead, they usually study only one case or a few instances of the phenomenon of interest". Pg. 532


"As we read Katz's account of American education during the period from 1850 to 1884, the controversies and attempted solutions that he describes seem eerily like those that we face today, over a hundred years later. We are led to wonder, as Katz does, whether by ignoring history, we have replicated the same unsuccessful reform strategies over and over again". Pg. 538


From the Chapter 16 Review handout...

* Historical events are unique

* Many different causes are possible so most antecedent events are more likely to A cause rather than THE cause.

* "Historians cannot prove that one past event caused another, but they can make explicit the assumptions that underlie their attributions of causality in sequences of historical events."



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Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 2:43 pm on May 5, 2006

How do I "claim" this chapter? Am very new to this :)

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