Here is the course description for the Civil War research seminar that I will be offering this semester. Feel free to offer any suggestions.
Goal of the Course: The goal of this course is to teach students how to research and write Civil War history utilizing the wide-range of primary source material available on the Internet. This course will focus primarily on the Valley of the Shadow project out of the University of Virginia. The Valley project provides the most complete on-line archive, including diaries, letters, newspapers, official city/county documents and the complete census reports for 1860 and 1870. The website allows students to compare life in two Shenandoah Valley counties through the Civil War era and into the immediate postwar period—Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
Course Structure: A normal week will be divided between in-class discussions of secondary source material (articles and chapters) which will provide an overview of important issues related to the Civil War era as well as more focused material related to the Valley project. At least two days of the week will be devoted to in-class research where students will use classroom computers to work on individual projects. In addition to assignments covering course readings, students will be required to keep a weekly research log which will include a record of all documents analyzed and general progress on research. Every other week the group will come together and each student will report on his/her progress to the rest of the class. This will provide an opportunity for students to offer suggestions or share material that may be relevant to other projects.
Historians from the area will be invited to join in discussions of course readings and staff from the University of Virginia who work on the Valley project will also be invited to discuss issues related specifically to researching the database.
Research Skills : (1) Choosing a Topic; (2) Formulating a Thesis Statement; (3) Collecting and Analyzing Evidence; (4) Building an Argument; 5) Structuring/Writing Historical Essays and Integrating Primary Documents into the Narrative; (6) Footnotes/Endnotes; (7) Sharing information
Course Requirements: This course is designed along the lines of a college-level course. You are expected to stay on top of reading assignments and spend sufficient time reading source material for your project. Please note the importance of participation in the grade break-down below. You must also come to class prepared to discuss reading assignments and will be expected to lead the class discussion at least once. In addition, a mid-term exam will be given around the fifth week of the course. Finally, the class will take one field trip to a Civil War battlefield at some point during the semester..
Required Text: This Terrible War: The Civil War and its Aftermath by Michael Fellman, Lesley Gordon, and Daniel Sutherland. Additional handouts will be made available by the instructor.
A Word to Seniors With Varying Degrees of Senioritis: This course is an elective, which means that you do not have to be here. If the requirements of this course do not fit into your overall goals, please consider taking another course so we do not have any serious problems. I guarantee that the writing skills learned throughout this semester will benefit you in college. It is up to you to decide whether you will take advantage of this offer.
Breakdown of Course Requirements: Final Research Project 50%, Thesis Summaries, 20%, Mid-Term 10%, and Participation 20%