Scholarly communication

Historians and other scholars share their research and learn from each other via a variety of formats:

  • Informal conversation: Email lists, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, classroom discussion.
  • Conferences: Scholars present current work in history—sometimes published in conference proceedings.
  • Trade publications: News about current research, grants to fund new research, new hires to work on a research project, are announced.
  • Scholarly journal articles: Historians formalize the results of their research & interpretation in scholarly articles.
  • Books (scholarly monographs): Usually result of years of research, often based on previously published scholarly articles and/or conference presentations.

Here's a ​Prezi on the topic.

Characteristics of history research

Historians' research:

  • Is based on primary sources (text, cultural artifacts).
  • Emphasizes interpretation of events and primary sources (over accumulation of facts).
  • Uses the book as the predominant format for scholarly communitcation (in general). 

A historian may argue that...

  • An event or aspect of society (political, cultural, etc.) contributed to an historical event occurring as it did.
  • A previously overlooked group of people had an important role in history because…
  • The way historians talk about an historical event should change because…
  • Two historical events that were not previously seen as connected really are connected because...

Is it scholarly?

Ask these questions to help you decide whether or not a book is scholarly:

  • Argument: Is there an overall argument to the book? 
    (TIP: Check the introduction or jacket description.)
  • Author: Is the author an academic or professional historian?
    (TIP: Google the author or look in the "about the author" section of the book.)
  • Publisher: Is the publisher a university press, non-profit publisher, trade publisher or other?
    (TIP: Google the publisher name. Is there website a .edu, .com, or .org?)
  • Index: Is there an in-depth index at the back of the book?
  • Citations: Are there notes and citations?
    (i.e. chapter end notes, book end notes, or page footnotes.)
  • Reviews: What (if anything) do book reviews say?
    (TIP: Look for reviews on Google or in library databases.)