Academic Skills for Historians

Dit vak wordt in het Engels aangeboden. Omschrijvingen kunnen daardoor mogelijk alleen in het Engels worden weergegeven.

Doel vak

During this course, the student will acquire a set of study skills and
learning habits that are essential for research of historical literature
and for the writing of an academic paper.

• Finding, selecting and assessing scientific literature
• Processing and summarizing the selected scientific literature
• Critical use of important reference works and online resources
• Reading and interpretation of a historical primary source
• Recognizing several approaches and points of view within an academic
• Formulating a hypothesis or identifying a problem, and elaborate on
these by using smaller sub-questions
• Compiling an essay in which the analysis of scientific literature is
• Understanding the rules for annotation and bibliography
• An aptitude to process teachers’ feedback
• Self-evaluation


• The student will deepen her or his knowledge of a historiographical
theme from the Middle Ages or Early Modern Period. A list of themes will
be provided by the teacher

Inhoud vak

During their education, history students learn how to conduct
independent research on the basis of scientific literature (secondary
sources) and primary sources preserved from the past. In addition, they
learn how to present the results of their research in a manner that is
accessible and understandable for others in research papers. At the end
of their training, this will result in the writing of a bachelor’s
thesis. During the course ‘Academic Skills’, the students have their
first accumulation of the basic academic skills necessary for writing an
academic paper.

A first step is the selection and critical assessment of scientific
information. Critical evaluation of information is a crucial skill for
historians. Any scholar conducting research will constantly be
confronted with a myriad of facts, (subjective) knowledge and
interpretations, of which the academic value is not a priori given. In
this course, students learn how to judge the reliability and (limited)
objectivity of information. Special attention will be given to learning
how to assess the scientific quality of websites, as well as references
works and datasets that are available online.

Students will also learn how to find literature on a specific topic and
they will be familiarized with the facilities and practical organization
of the VU library (UBVU). The course instructors will address the
academic conventions on describing and saving bibliographical data in
footnotes and bibliographies. Various forms of electronic
data-collection will be studied, which includes the use of online
catalogues, search engines and bibliographical reference works.

A second important step in academic research is the processing and
interpretation of the selected information. Crucial is the ability to
properly summarize a scientific article or the different arguments in a
scientific debate. Students will learn to distinguish between a
carefully constructed argumentation and an unsubstantiated opinion. It
is equally important to be able to assess whether an author has been
successfully able to answer her or his question or substantiate the
hypothesis she or he has introduced initially. To make this assessment,
students will consider what method and sources have been used by authors
of academic work.

Thirdly, students will apply their obtained skills to the writing of an
essay, which has to meet current academic standards in the field of
history. It has to start with a clear historical question or problem, it
has to include a discussion of the relevant historiography on the topic,
and it must add the scientific voice of the author through original
argumentation. In the end, a clear conclusion must be reached. This
essay will be the final step of a process in which students, through a
number of earlier practical assignments, will have studied all aspects
of academic writing, from formulating a good research question to the
final revision. During this process, the students will be guided on
status quæstionis, approach, structure and style. Practical matters of
time management, dealing with deadlines and writing strategies will also
be discussed, and students will learn how to apply feedback into their
writing process, and turn to self-evaluation as a means to better their


The course is divided into seminars and practical training sessions.
Classes are scheduled twice a week and last two hours each time.
Presence in class is mandatory. Students who have a reason to be absent
have to inform the course's coordinator in time of their absence, which
is limited to a maximum of two times, after which the student can be
penalized with exclusion.


Assignments (25%) and final essay (75%). In order to successfully
complete this course, the final result has to be sufficient, but
students must also be graded with a pass on their essay.


Jeannette Kamp, Susan Legêne, Matthias van Rossum, Sebas Rümke, Writing
History! A companion for historians (Amsterdam University Press, 2018).
ISBN 9789462986398 (obligatory). Additional reading material will be
made available on Canvas in due time.


Students of BA 1 History and International Studies.

Overige informatie

This course is compulsory for first year students in History and has to
be successfully completed in order to obtain a positive binding study
advice (BSA).
For this module, following and passing the English Language Test (L_ELT)
is a prerequisite for awarding the obtained credits.

Afwijkende intekenprocedure

For this course, registration diverges from the standard procedure at the Faculty of Humanities (in which students register themselves). The instructors will make a division into several groups, after which further registration will be done at the Education Office. This means students should register for the course ‘Academic Skills’ themselves, but they cannot register for a particular group.

Algemene informatie

Studiepunten 6 EC
Periode P1
Vakniveau 100
Onderwijstaal Engels
Faculteit Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
Vakcoördinator dr. T.A.E.R. Vanneste
Examinator dr. T.A.E.R. Vanneste
Docenten dr. T.A.E.R. Vanneste
drs. L. Alvarez Frances

Praktische informatie

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