JHU MLA 450.600

Research and Documentation in the Electronic Age: Methods and Practical Applications
Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist and Commissioner of Land Patents


This course will concentrate on the writing and documentation of a research paper based upon secondary and primary sources. All students will research and write about an assigned aspect of the same topic (the purported plot to assassinate Lincoln in February 1861).  The seminar will begin with an assessment of readily available in print and electronic sources concerning the alleged plot, and with implementing  the tools necessary  for electronic note-taking from those sources.   

The assignment for week 2 will be to take notes from the required reading as noted on the schedule, and to develop an outline of research questions arising from the reading.  From that list and class discussion specific research assignments will be made and directions given for source gathering, exploring manuscript resources, evaluating evidence, and organizing the structure and argument of the midterm assignment and a final paper.  The final paper is not required to exceed the equivalent of 20, double-spaced pages and will address the question Was there a serious plot to kill Lincoln in February 1861? 

Students will be expected to own or have use of a lap top or a desktop computer with internet access and administrative permissions to install software and a usb flash drive of 4 gigabytes or more. (See the list of hardware and software required and recommended for this seminar). A guide to inexpensive electronic aids to research and software will be distributed in class to students' usb flash drives. 

There will be at least one seminar research session in the JHU library, and a possible Saturday research session at the Mary Surratt House, James O. Hall research center, in lieu of one evening class.  With these exceptions, all research for this seminar will be focused on web-based resources and all requirements for the seminar can be met using on-line resources. 

Students are to keep a weekly electronic journal of what they were able to accomplish on their research projects in an electronic folder (journals) on their USB Flash drive in html format  with the journal labeled yourinitials_jnl01 ..., which also is to be submitted as an email attachment to the instructor at edp@mdsa.net. The journal is due to the instructor six (6) hours in advance of the seminar beginning the second week, and is to include any problems, concerns, questions that should arise in the course of the week 

Required reading (note that these references are from http://worldcat.org which provides the user with choices of citation format.  Turabian is used here. All are in  word searchable pdf format):


Digital books and web based research tools:

Sources will be discussed and accessed as the research strategy for each assignment is developed, but in general all seminar participants will be expected to have access to the resources at the Johns Hopkins Milton S. Eisenhower Library through the VPN network, the web resources of the Pratt Library through a Pratt Library card obtainable at any branch and affiliated county libraries (such as the Baltimore County Library)--an example would be the Sanborn Insurance maps for Maryland, as well as:

1) Google Books, a remarkable on line resource that provides searchable access to many early books on Maryland and US  History.

2) http://www.digitalbookindex.com/.  The sources cited there will also lead you to articles and journals on line at the Library of Congress, the University of Michigan (MOA) and Cornell (also MOA).

3) Worldcat and Library of Congress catalogues.  

4) The American Memory Project of the Library of Congress, the Maryland State Archives web site, and the Maryland Historical Society web site 

Students can also track their own libraries through a free account at  http://librarything.com, and should search http://wikipedia.org  for articles related to the principal research theme. The midterm exercise will be to create or edit a Wikpedia article relevant to your research assignment. An example of a new article in Wikipedia on which the instructor collaborated is the biographical sketch to J. Steward Davis, but the assignment may be to assess and improve an article on a topic such as  the  biographical sketch of Kate Warne.  For a scholarly assessment of Wikipedia the seminar is expected to read for week 3, : Roy Rosenzweig, Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,  in the Journal of American History, June 2006, pp. 117-146).

In writing/editing a Wikipedia article and a final paper, students are expected to follow a generally accepted manual of style (the instructor prefers Turabian as updated for web based research, but students are permitted to choose from any of those recommended at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Style.html as long as the guidelines for research and citation there are followed).  Pay close attention to the importance of citation and the definitions given for plagiarism.

Also read for week 3 (see schedule):

Himmelfarb, Gertrude.  "Where Have All the Footnotes Gone?" The New York Times Book Review, June 16, 1991, p. 24.

History's Ethical Crisis from The Journal of American History, March 2004


Grades will be based upon the research files and notes maintained on the usb flash drives (50%),  the editing/updating or creation of a Wikipedia article relevant to your research assignment (20%), a draft outline of the final paper on the USB flash drive (20%), and class participation which includes the weekly journals (10%).  The research on the USB Flash drives will be reviewed periodically by the instructor and the class during the semester.  The midterm will be graded according to the effective documentation and presentation of edited or new content.  The final outline of the paper will be due the last week of class with an oral presentation the last night of class at the home of the instructor.