Tag Archives: FAQ

The Absent-Minded Professor

You know the stereotype: the professor with crooked glasses, bumping into doors, unable to remember his own name? I actually taught for weeks with broken glasses one semester, because I didn’t have time to replace them until the break. And … Continue reading

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How to Read for Class

If you’ve tried reading a scholarly book or article the same way you would approach a terrific new novel of your favorite genre, you’ve probably discovered that the scholarly work doesn’t flow in the same way, and you may find … Continue reading

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“Should I Go to Grad School?”

Wrong reasons: -You want to stay in school. -You’re afraid of the job market. -You don’t know what else to do. -You’re really smart and do well in school, so you should prove that by going as far as you … Continue reading

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It’s That Time of the Semester

It’s mid-term exam season! These are some checks you should do before turning in any take-home essay exam for a history class. If you have any ambition to do well, you should be at the point where you think you’ve … Continue reading

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“I need an A in this class”

If you have uttered this phrase to an authority figure at college, you have already hopelessly screwed up your chances. You’re doing everything wrong. I mean it: there’s no way to lighten up this message. You screwed up. I’m sorry. … Continue reading

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“My prof is so stupid”

I’ve heard this said on my campus. Often by a student who is also making fundamental factual and grammatical errors in the process of an extended whine that, I can only assume, was prompted by a lower-than-expected grade. I’ve also … Continue reading

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“Grades are so subjective”

Actually, they’re probably less subjective than you think. And to the degree that there is still some subjectivity, it probably works in your favor, not against you. First, in many classes these days grades may be almost completely objective, as … Continue reading

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ASEEES and AHA

In the last few months I’ve enjoyed the rich alphabet soup of attending ASEEES and AHA in NOLA. Say what? I mean I attended the annual conference of Slavicists and Eastern Europeanists and that of the American Historical Association, which … Continue reading

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Adventures in Russian archives

I first arrived in Ivanovo, Russia, in the fall of 2004 by overnight train from Moscow. We pulled into Ivanovo at seven in the morning, and I peeked out, still sleepy and disoriented. I asked the elderly gentlemen getting off … Continue reading

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What Is Socialism?

Judging by the way the media and the GOP talk about it, you might conclude that socialism is anything the GOP disagrees with. Teaching what socialism actually is is part of my job, so I get asked this quite a … Continue reading

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Russians Love Their Children Too

I’m quoting Sting, of course, in his famous — and at the time daring — song, released in 1985, during the Cold War. He was hoping that Russians, though our enemies, are human too, loving their children enough not to … Continue reading

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Unlearning High School in Five Painful Steps

This is addressed to all the college freshman out there. There are a few habits you may have learned in high school that will have to be adjusted in college. Remember that the chief difference between high school and college … Continue reading

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Why you shouldn’t feel bad you didn’t go for (or finish) the Ph.D.

Sometimes when I tell people what I do for a living, they tell me they almost got a Ph.D. Sometimes, they say this unapologetically, just as a factoid of interest, but unfortunately sometimes it’s said with a direct or implied … Continue reading

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Should you go to the best school you can get into?

Students ask me this question a lot, usually about graduate programs, and sometimes I get asked about it with regard to choosing an undergraduate program as well. Especially in these days of astronomical tuition costs and uncertain job market potential, … Continue reading

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What is academic history?

History is unique in being counted (or confused) as falling under both the social sciences and the humanities. From its beginnings in oral storytelling, history was a partly literary exercise (and thus a part of the humanistic tradition) until it … Continue reading

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Students: What to Do When You’re Drowning

1. Get help If you’re drowning in your schoolwork, the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t happening or hide. Talk to your professors. Go to the student counseling center. Talk to the dean of students. Make sure … Continue reading

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What is Academic Writing?

An academic essay is best defined by the PURPOSE that distinguishes it from other kinds of non-fiction writing: It aims to identify and resolve complex problems in relation to ongoing discussions among fellow thinkers about the most difficult or abstract … Continue reading

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Rogue Professors

Okay, so you’ve read my posts about managing your expectations in college, taking responsibility for your own behavior, and understanding what grades do and do not mean. And you still think your professor is being unfair. Okay, it’s possible your … Continue reading

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Being Original

Many students have the mistaken assumption that having an argument or thesis means they have to prove that some professional academic who wrote a book is wrong about his own specialty (an obviously impossible task for an undergraduate writing a … Continue reading

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What is Tenure?

 Many people think tenure means job security. That it means that educators, unlike everyone else, can’t be fired. This is nonsense. Tenure does not equal job security. It does not exist in order to protect the jobs of teachers. I … Continue reading

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What is a Historian?

When I was in middle school, we had an assignment to research a profession we were interested in pursuing. In order to find such a profession, we were first asked what we were interested in, and what we were good … Continue reading

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Top Ten Avoidable Mistakes Made by History Students

(in no particular order) 1.    Using words vaguely I frequently get the impression that many students choose words that are merely “close enough” rather than the one word that most precisely captures their meaning. Similarly, many students seem to read … Continue reading

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Grades — What Are They Good For?

When I learn that a student is working to maintain a 4.0 grade point average, I see red flags waving all over the place. A 4.0 does not particularly impress me, and it does worry me. In my experience (and … Continue reading

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How Not to Write an Email to Your Professor

Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing I frequently find in my inbox, from something like “dragonboy785@gmail”: Hey Prof! I need the notes from last week. Did we do anything important in class? Besides being rude and demonstrating very little … Continue reading

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