This section of the History Engine will give you the basics, the ins and outs of the miniature research projects you will tackle to draft and publish an “episode”. This section of the History Engine will help guide you through understanding the goal of your project, conducting primary and secondary source research, and writing miniature research episodes. Once your instructor provides you with a unique class code, you can also Register. Registering allows you to enter your episodes into the History Engine.
Through the process of researching and writing an episode, you and your classmates will have the opportunity to become historians. Rather than simply absorbing information from textbooks and other resources, you will actively investigate, evaluate, and write about historical issues. You will begin by examining original primary documents—everything from letters and newspapers to court cases and sheet music. You will analyze these documents with a critical eye and place them in a larger historical context using secondary sources. Your next task will be to create written episodes that tell a story about your primary sources and their context. Finally, after review from your instructor, you will publish your episode on the History Engine, making it accessible to the public.
An episode is a story about anything from a congressional act to a meeting between two neighbors, from a store receipt to a love letter, from a painting to a children’s picture book, told from the contents of one or more primary sources. The goal of the episode is not to recount textbook-like facts, but to try to understand the past from the perspective of the people who lived it. The episode provides the details of daily occurrences found in one or more primary sources and contextualizes those details with information from secondary sources.
Cosmetically, episodes are shorter in length—a maximum of two double-spaced pages each. But the goal of the assignment is also different: an episode should be built around a story, not an argument. The focus of your episode should be one primary source (or a couple of documents about the same family, issue, town, etc.). Your job will be to tell the story of this source in a way that provides some insight into the past. A final important difference is that your instructor will not be the only person reading your final product. You will make an important contribution to understanding the past by uploading your finished episodes to the History Engine database.