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Peer Review

Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students by Patrick Rael

by Patrick Rael


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.5 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Feb 11, 2014 by History Editorial Board
Overview: This publication contains research and paper writing guidelines for history students at all grade levels. The author provides step by step guidance for researching a topic and crafting a research paper. Parts of the publication stand alone and can be taken out of context to use in general history courses, or taken as a whole and used in writing intensive courses.
Type of Material: Open textbook (Patrick Rael, Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College, 2004).) – under Creative Commons Licensing
Recommended Uses: As an introductory lesson on writing an historical research paper (of practically any length), as the basis for a methods class, as refresher and/or reference guide for the advanced collegiate historical writer.
Technical Requirements: PDF, browser – can be used on any device. Chapters and sections available at PDF download as is the entire publication.
Identify Major Learning Goals: To help a student: select a reasonable and manageable topic, find and assess sources, draft a clear thesis, conduct research, and to draft and produce a coherent and cogent research paper.
Target Student Population: All levels higher education from community college through graduate school. Primarily for students of history, although suitable for political science. Students in other humanities disciplines can benefit from this publication.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic internet navigation and basic typing skills.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: This publication is designed to guide students in the research and writing process. The author provides multiple examples in each unit throughout the publication. Excellent for writing intensive courses.
Concerns: Some links are institution dependent. Since this text was composed and produced in 2004, the variety of online resources available to students is lacking. A section on identifying and evaluating online reference resources is lacking. There is no section for locating primary sources online.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: Self-paced materials excellent for students at all levels college, particularly freshman and community college students. Useful as a refresher for returning and non-traditional students. The publication guides students through the entire process and can be used as an ancillary text for writing intensive courses.
Concerns: Due to age of publication (2004), there is scant discussion of online resources and no information for searching out primary sources in the online environment or archives repositories.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The units build on one another and can be used singly for quick reference. The entire text and each section can be downloaded as PDF file for later consultation.
Concerns: The text is presented on a webpage with two frames, one as table of contents which also contains the PDF link, the second larger frame contains the text. The frames do not move. The publication consists of text without images and few links so technically it is “timeless”.

Other Issues and Comments: A great example of writing guidelines for humanities subjects.