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Undergraduate Research Opportunities in History

At West Virginia University the Department of History provides our majors with the opportunity to conduct historical research in original sources.  Research is a key component of advanced-level courses and capstone projects, and our students have undertaken research projects that range across time and space.  In addition to the capstone and advanced-level courses, a program has been established for students who wish to work closely with faculty beyond the classroom as a research assistant.  This initiative aims to expose undergraduate students to what life as a historian entails.  Collaborating one-on-one as an assistant with the faculty member offers students the opportunity to work extensively with primary sources, including letters, memoirs, diaries, government memoranda, laws and court cases, as well as statistical tables, novels, material artifacts, images, and newspapers.  Students also apply historical methodologies to help evaluate sources, interpret evidence, and construct arguments.  Through this collaborative experience with faculty members, students embark upon an experiential learning process that is planned, supervised, and evaluated for credit (HIST 497).

Students also have the opportunity to present their research at various forums: poster displays  at the Annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Charleston, or at the university research days, which are held in April. Others have presented a portion of their research in a formal paper at the Regional Phi Alpha Theta Undergraduate Research Conference or another conference.  Through this interaction with faculty, students learn how their research training and skills can be applied to a variety of careers in higher education, law school, business, federal and state government work, and public history.

Odom Undergrad research day

"Undergraduate Christine Odom presents her Hist 497 research at the Annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Charleston."


Recently, students in the HIST 484-Historical Research Capstone courses have completed papers on a variety of topics.

As part of the Undergraduate Research Skills Program (HIST 497), students have assisted faculty members on a variety of projects, from examining how news of wartime conditions in German Central Europe appeared in the British press during the Napoleonic Wars, to reviewing and compiling information on Historic Property Inventories (HPIs) from the WV State Historic Preservation Office, to working with World War II soldiers’ letters from the West Virginia & Regional History Center (WVRHC) collection..  Here are some sample testimonials from students who recently participated in the program:

Josh Childs Phi Alpha theta

"Undergraduate Josh Childs presents his research at the Phi Alpha Theta Undergraduate Research Conference." 

Procedures

As part of the Undergraduate Research Skills Program, students can receive credit for HIST 497 in a number of ways:

 

Any student taking HIST 497 for credit will need to complete the following:

 

Undergraduates interested to learn more about undergraduate research opportunities in History should contact Dr. William Hal Gorby, Director of Undergraduate Studies (William.Gorby@mail.wvu.edu) for more information.