Historical Scholarship in America: Needs and Opportunities (1932)
A Report by the Committee of the American Historical Association on the Planning of Research
The Conference Agenda
In order to focus the discussion of the several conferences upon problems of common professional concern, the Committee on the Planning of Research prepared the following agenda, with the understanding that the respective conference chairmen might modify any of the items if the needs of a particular field made such action desirable:
I. Present Trends and Neglected Areas in Research
a. To what extent does the growth of the subject of history depend upon the injection of new ideas and points of view from outside the professional guild?
b. To what extent do the annual lists of dissertation subjects reveal newer trends, and to what extent a threshing over of old straw?
c. Is it possible, or desirable, to list the major problems which might fruitfully be attacked in the next decade or two, or is such leadership unwise in a field in which the chief scientific progress has hitherto been made in a highly individualistic way?
d. Should steps be taken to publish periodical lists of individual or coöperative projects now under way, in order to prevent duplication of effort and to stimulate breadth of interests?
II. Enlargement, Improvement and Preservation of Materials
a. What are the present trends and the neglected opportunities in the collection or preservation of historical material? Is there need for greater specialization in the collection of material?
b. To what extent should historians interest themselves in museum development?
c. Is it feasible, or desirable, to lay out a national plan for library development, looking towards the building up of great collections of research material along special lines at certain natural centers?
d. Can anything be done to systematize and coördinate the publication of source material?
e. What are the chief needs in the way of materials to be printed or edited?
f. What are the chief needs in the way of bibliographies, calendars, archival guides, etc.?
III. Development of Research Personnel
a. What methods are employed, or what methods can be devised, to attract undergraduates of marked research ability into graduate work?
b. Should graduate students be induced to divide the period of their graduate work among different institutions in order to facilitate contact with a larger number of scholars and in order to acquaint themselves with additional viewpoints and methods?
c. To what extent are universities able to provide fellowships for travel abroad, either for additional study or for the direct acquaintance of the student with topographical or documentary material?
d. How can the present training for the Ph.D. degree be improved to fit young scholars for the new tasks of the historian?
e. What can be done to insure continued research activity of men after they have received their Ph.D. degrees?
IV. Improvement of Research Methods
a. Is there need for new manuals devoted to historical method?
b. To what extent is methodology taught in the graduate schools as a distinct course? Should this teaching be revised or improved? Should it be required of all students in the field?
c. What is the present status of historical seminar work? What is the general procedure? Is it satisfactory, or should it be reorganized?
d. Are graduate students permitted, or encouraged, or required, to acquaint themselves with other contributory techniques, such as statistics?
e. Is there overspecialization among graduate students even within the field of history itself?
f. Can anything be done to improve the art of historical writing?
g. Can anything be done to solve the language problem? How rigorous are the requirements?
V. Improvement of Research Organization
a. Are historians benefiting as much as they might from the membership of the American Historical Association in the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies?
b. What is being accomplished by local university research councils for the social sciences, and what can be done to extend and improve the work of such bodies?
c. Is there need for new types, perhaps more highly specialized, of research agencies?
d. What can be done to bring about a closer relationship between professional historians and historical societies ?
VI. Publication Problems
a. Should steps be taken to publish annually abstracts of all doctoral dissertations, possibly also of all masters' theses?
b. Are there any obvious shortcomings in our professional journals that might be corrected? Are our standards of book reviewing adequate?
c. Have we at the present time adequate facilities for keeping posted on recent publications, both periodical and in book form?
d. Would it serve any important scientific purpose to establish one or more series devoted to the publication of short monographs (articles too long for journals and too short to make books)?
e. Are other channels of publication sufficient for taking care of genuinely meritorious pieces of research?
VII. Financial Needs for the Promotion of Research
a. Does historical research receive support from college and university research funds?
b. Are there any large coöperative projects which are sufficiently significant to justify a request for financial aid from a foundation?
c. Are existing arrangements for postgraduate fellowships and grants-in-aid from outside agencies adequate?
Last Updated: May 22, 2007