This course has two goals: to acquaint students with the concept of a research question, and to give them practice in answering such questions through the critical use of historical primary sources. The clear formulation of an answerable question grounded in the existing scholarly literature is fundamental to research in geography and in the other social and natural sciences as well. This course seeks to make students more discerning consumers of research and more competent producers of it by training them in the use of such questions. It then focuses on the use of historical primary sources in answering geographical questions about the past, stressing important characteristics of such sources that include their origin and purpose, their reliability, their biases, and the kinds of inferences that can be drawn from them. Much of the course will be devoted to intensive individual and group practice in thinking through real-world and hypothetical examples of research questions involving historical primary sources, and to the close reading and discussion of published research papers as models. Examples will be drawn from human and nature-society geography and related fields dealing with upstate and especially central New York. For a final project, students in small groups will formulate, carry out, present, and defend research projects, each one centered on a significant question and employing multiple kinds of historical primary sources.
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