Comparative Textbook Analysis

    December 1, 2022

100 points
5-6 pages, double-spaced, 12-font in a Word doc or Google doc (avoid Pages)
Submit to Canvas below. Your paper will automatically be submitted to
The Problem
Many students consider their textbooks as the one true story of history. Undergraduate students,
however, begin to realize that while historians advance their very best conclusions based on evidence,
source corroboration, and the process of peer review, history is more than just a few scholars’
conclusions or interpretations. They begin to realize the forces at work in influencing and shaping the
historical narrative in a textbook; certain things are included, some things are excluded. Constituents
have different priorities and agendas: state and county boards of education, teachers, school boards,
parents, and students. Even among expert historians, history making and telling is a dynamic process of
investigation of assumptions, good questions, alternative approaches, and claims that move history closer
to a more complete understanding of the past.
The Question
As a teacher, you’ll have to think about how you will deal with competing priorities and even the
inconsistencies, contradictions, tensions, and gaps in the historical record and in scholars’ interpretations
of that record. How will you do this? Once way to start is by closely examining history textbooks as
historical sources themselves and posing a probing question about them.
The Task and the Method

  1. Topic Selection. First, decide on your topic of investigation. Since this assignment is good prep for
    your semester-long Teaching Unit group project assignment, it makes sense if you and your group can
    choose different topics and use this as a way for you to reach consensus about your Teaching Unit topic.
    To ease your research, you should choose a narrow enough topic for easy comparison. Your topic should
    include a:
    A Person, group, movement, idea, or event
    A Place, location, culture (for context)
    Date, time period (for context) between the ancient period and 1500 CE)
    For example: Buddhism is too broad a topic. Ancient Buddhism is a more narrow topic. Women in Early
    Buddhism, or the Life of the Buddha, or The Transmission of Buddhism from India to China are even
    more narrow and, therefore, better. Or another: Greek history is too broad, Ancient Greek history is
    better, Hellenism may be better, Women in Ancient Greece is also better. You get the idea. The more
    narrow your topic, the easier it will be to make comparisons between textbooks.
  2. Research: Once you have a topic, look up your topic in at least 5 (five) world history textbooks. The
    list below is already approved for your use, but you may also use other textbooks with the professor’s
    permission. Choose any five but be prepared to explain why you chose them. There are 2 (two) places
    where you can find textbooks to research: A) On-line/digital textbooks and B) Print or On-line Textbooks
    from the SDSU Library (see the Hist 411 Library Research Guide for these recommendations).
    A. On-line/Digital Textbooks:
    *I checked all links. Some load slowly . . . please be patient.
    • McDougall/Littell World History: Patterns of Interaction. You can download for quicker
    • World History: Journeys From the Past and Present (Links to an external site.)
    • World History: Cultures, States, and Societies to 1500 (Links to an external site.)
    • Boundless World History (Links to an external site.)
    • A Comprehensive Outline of World History (Links to an external site.)
    • David Eaton, World History Through Case Studies: Historical Skills in Practice (our textbook)
    • Crash Course Videos (Scroll all the way down to World History I and World History II) (Links
    to an external site.)
    B. Print and On-line Textbooks at the SDSU Love Library – See our Library Research Guide
    in the Getting Started Module for this list.
  3. Comparative Evaluation Essay (5-6 pages)
    Evaluate the textbooks as historical sources (primary sources) and take notes on your findings and
    comparisons while you research. Here are some things to note (and you should add more if you find
    something interesting or significant). For guidance in writing a compare and contrast essay see:
    ( (Links to an external site.)).
    • What were the similarities and differences you noted in the coverage of your topic?
    o How much was covered/not covered? What do you think about the degree of coverage it
    received? What does this say?
    o What was covered? How was it similar or different from other coverage?
    o How was it covered? Pay attention to things like use of language, visual representations,
    subtopics, or other features
    • What do you know about the context of the textbooks?
    o By whom and when were they produced? Is this significant?
    o What other influences in their production are significant, if any?
    o For whom were they produced? (audience)
    You don’t have to elaborate on all of these items; only what you think is significant considering the
    textbooks (data) that you have.
  4. Conclusions. As you conclude your evaluation of the coverage of your topic in the textbooks that
    you chose, think about your future students (imagining that you have older elementary, middle school, or
    high school students). Write up your textbook analysis considering the following questions, or others that
    you might find as interesting or significant.
    • What do you really want to say about what you found out?
    • How would each textbook shape your students’ understanding of your topic?
    • Thesis: Write a strong argument in answer to the question: What are the implications of
    differences in coverage? (Why does it matter that there are differences?)
    • What are your thoughts on how you would supplement your use of a textbook on this

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