Photo of Lama library by Wei-Jen Wang

Secrets of Success
> Home
> About

> Schedule
> Calendar
Download Bookmark

Workshop Series
---103 Success
-- Accuplacer Info
College Success

-- Job Readiness

-- Library Skills
-- Maida Kamber
-- Microsoft Office

-- Technology

Learning Resources
> Math - Testing

Contact Information
Disability Assistance

Version 3f

Home > Resources > History

History Resources

What is History?

"an offort to reconstruct the past to discover what people thought and did and how their beliefs and actions continued to influence human life"

McKay textbook

"History as a human activity grew out of the basic processes of civilization itself and, in its most developed form, is not only the record of civilization but also civilization's way of reflecting on itself. History and civilization are inseparable. Each entails the other."

Greaves textbook

Why study history?

"History should be studied because it is an absolutely necessary enlargement of human experience, a way of getting out of the boundaries of one's own life and culture and of seeing more of what human experience has been. And it is the necessary, unique way of orienting the present moment, so that you know where you are and where we have come from and so you don't fantasize about the past and make up myths to justify some immediate purpose -- so you can make decisions based to some extent on what has gone before, on knowledge of actual experience."

Professor Bailyn
Professor of History
Harvard University

The Nature of History

How historians really know what happened a long time ago?

When historians talk about historical context it means we are trying to understand the past the way the people living long ago. We must guard against our twentieth century perspective to truly understand why something happened the way it did.

The skeptical learner - Don't believe everything you read.

In our effort to understand the people of the past in their own context, historians tend to rely on written records form that particular time period being studied. These are known as "primary sources," and as a college student you will most likely work with this type of evidence.

When working with written documents from a particular time period it is important to develop a questioning attitude about your source. If you get into the habit of asking questions you will find that historical inquiry is fascinating and the answers you gain will be almost as interesting as the quest, which often seems like detective work.

Some questions to ask of your source.

What kind of document is this?

Who wrote it?

For whom and why was it written?

How does this written source compare to the other sources of the same period?

What does this piece of evidence reveal about that particular place and time?

How is studying this work relevant to us?
What does it tell us about humanity?

HISTORY - Very Important Points (V.I.P.'s)

  1. Know what is expected. Be prepared for each class with readings and assignments complete.
  2. We study the past to help us understand humanity's story. We determine relevance and significance by exploring the why question.
  3. Historians ask probing questions. Get in the habit of asking questions of your source.
  4. Historians value written records to understand the people of the past in their own context. Beware of twentieth century assumptions.

How to Survive (and Thrive) in a History Class

(What do you really need to know)

What happens in class? You'll be in a lecture setting with approximately 35 other classmates.

Know what is expected of you.

The course syllabus is an important tool. Keep it as a handy reference.

Come to class prepared (do readings and assignments before class).

Expect to read approximately 30-40 pages a week (perhaps more).

Express yourself. Expect to write a lot.

There will be 8-10 pages of formal writing (typed, double-spaced) in a semester course.

Exams usually have essay questions.

History instructors expect college level writings. Your paper should be:

  • free of grammatical errors.
  • nicely organized.
  • demonstrating your knowledge.
  • show evidence of critical thinking (your own ideas supported by evidence).
  • properly cited. Get into the habit of collecting bibliographical data for a "Work Cited" page. History instructors are interested in where you got your information.
  • written in your own words. Limit the number of direct quotations. Direct quotations are not as impressive as paraphrasing.
  • when using Internet sources, be aware that not all sources are equally valid. You must ask questions about your source to determine quality.

Who dunnit? When? Names & dates are important.

You should ask the instructor if a study guide will be provided.

Pay attention to the lectures and note those items written on the overhead or board; it can help you determine what the instructor finds important.

When remembering important people, be mindful of their significance in history.

Dates are important to sort out chronology. Try to remember the chronological order of events by recalling the story and how each particular event fits into the larger scheme of things.

So what? Determine relevance and significance.

Be always mindful of why a person, event, trend, period is important.

Often times the who, what, where, when, and how questions are used to understand why.

In answering the why question you will uncover the relevance of history and appreciate humanity's story.


when writing papers & essays on exams.

1) Not knowing what kind of writing is expected

Students need to know what is the acceptable writing style for a particular assignment. Keep in mind the teacher's purpose in assigning it, and ask yourself:

  • Is this a typical/traditional essay?
  • Is it a descriptive narrative?
  • Is it a comparison piece?
  • Is it acceptable to include personnel observations and reactions?

2) Not following the assignment (for papers) and not answering the questions (for essay exams).

Students sometimes think a lot of information is an answer for an exam or a paper. While information is necessary it is also important to answer the question.

Look for your thesis statement in the question itself. All of the information presented should serve to support your thesis.

3) Not starting their essays with the thesis statement.

Always put your thesis statement first. Everything else in your essay serves to support your thesis. Conclude by restating your thesis drawing on a brief list of specifics that were discussed in the body of your paper.

4) Giving in to the temptation of plagiarism.

Do not take information from another source word-for-word and pass it off as your own. If you do quote, use quotations marks, or fully indent & single space the passage if it's more than three lines long. Cite your source within the text, in footnotes, or as endnotes. Paraphrasing is a useful skill to develop.

Teachers are more impressed with a students ability to explain something in their own words that with and endless string of quotations. Use exact quotes sparingly, and only to reinforce what YOU want to say. A paper that is nothing but quotations is not really a paper written by you.

How to Use Your Learning Style

Two Examples


Rule 1: Knowing why you are learning the information.

Learn geography is important to understanding why certain cultures developed as they did. Geography, with all its environmental and climatic considerations, does influence humanity's story, therefore you will need to know where certain places are on a map.

Rule 2: Know the kind of information you are expected to master.

When preparing for a map test be sure you know what must be learned. Ask your instructor about specifics.

What do History teachers usually want?

  • oceans, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, land masses
  • countries (Be aware that political boundaries change over time.)
  • capital cities (Why were these particular locations chosen?)

Questions often asked by History teachers in relation to geography:

  • How does climate influence lifestyle?
  • How does the environment influence socio-political development?

Rule 3: Know your learning style and use a strategy that works for you.

Visual Learner = Make practice maps (use white out and xerox many copies). Use colors to distinguish between oceans, mountains, etc., but be aware that you will be given a black and white map to fill-in at test time so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the shape of the land boundaries.

Kinesthetic Learner = Follow the same procedure as the visual learner, but your learning will probably occur in the act of filling in the practice map. Colors are not as important as doing many practice runs. Trace the boundaries for countries mountains, and rivers with your finger while studying.

Auditory Learner = Follow the same procedure as the visual learner, but when labeling your practice map be sure you are saying each item while you are labeling it. Make up a tune to help you remember.


(Date, Chronology and Sequence)

Rule 1: Knowing why you are learning the information.

It is useful to know how events and people are related in time so we can truly understand how humanity's story fits together. Correct placement in time helps you make the connections. These can help you analyze impact of events and people over time.

Rule 2: Know the kind of information you are expected to master.

The chronology (i.e. sequence of events) is important and actual dates can help you remember the sequence. The trick, however, is to remember dates in relationship to each other.

For example: Don't just ask yourself "When did Plato live?" You need to also ask, "Is this before or after Socrates and Aristotle?" Knowing which of these Greek philosophers came first will help you comprehend the influence their predecessors had on them, as well as the impact they would on their successors.

Rule 3: Know your learning style and use a strategy that works for you.

Kinesthetic Learner = To help you remember the chronology make a timeline for the period you are studying. Label you timeline (i.e. people, events etc.). Notice the overlapping of all these labels. The act of labeling such a timeline is useful for the kinesthetic learner.

Visual Learner = The final product can prove to be a useful tool for the visual learner.

Auditory Learner = The auditory learner may not find a timeline exercise as useful. The auditory learner might have an easer time remembering the story to determine sequence, but be sure to add the dates into the story when you tell it to someone.

History Video's

Hawaii's Chinatown

Japanese Knights



Kapi'olani Community College - © 2002-2009. All Rights Reserved.
4303 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816 | 808.734.9206
Established: July 17, 2002 - Send comments to:
UH System Page KCC Library Page KCC Home Page SOS Home Page SOS Schedule SOS Learning Resources SOS Subject