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.
Characteristics of history 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.)