Studying Family History at University

Studying Family History at the University of Tasmania

I recently completed the University of Tasmania’s Introduction to Family History Course  (HSP105) that is part of the Bachelor of General Studies Degree run out of the History Department. The unit coordinator was Dr Dianne Snowden.

Studying Family History

Introduction to Family History  – The Course Outline

As noted in the Unit Outline the course was described as follows: “Introduction to Family History is designed for people interested in their own family histories or genealogy in general. You will learn how to research family history accurately and efficiently using the growing range of online family history resources. You may be surprised at what you discover and what you can share with family and friends.”

More specifically the intended learning outcomes studying family history you would expect from “successfully completing this unit” were:

  1. Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of family history principles and planning, research and recording methods;
  2. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources and critically evaluate them;
  3. Conduct genealogical investigations that demonstrate a familiarity with major family history sources and repositories;
  4. Critically analyse genealogical problems and develop plans for solving them; and
  5. Present the findings of your applied genealogical work to an appropriate scholarly standard.

The final submission for the course was a biographical report based on the research you had been working on as part of the course. I will post the report in a future blog post.

What did I Learn Studying Family History?

  • The course stressed the use of correct sourcing and the appropriate academic formats to use when sourcing. Forcing myself to document source data, as part of the assignments, was very good practice for me.
  • The creation of the research plan with the aims listed in the form of questions you intended to investigate focuses your research on the research aims. It avoids that random searching without direction.
  • Plus listing the repositories or sources at the time of writing the research plan means you start the research at full speed rather than having to figure out how you are going to do the research.
  • Emphasis on understanding the differences between primary and secondary sources highlighted understandings about the value of sources and the need to verify data with more than one source.
  • The ability to adjust and adapt the plan so that the stated objectives of the research are achieved.
  • And also to present the research findings with diagrams and sources in the form of a Biographical Report.

 Online Teaching Including Discussion Groups

The course was delivered totally online via the University of Tasmania MyLo portal. Part of the course required participation in online discussion groups. You commented and helped other in your allocated group while they also made suggestions to help my research.

It was clear from the discussion groups many struggled with the academic rigor and/or the use of the online facilities. The need to do work in scholarly way is easier if you had previously studied at university so were more accustomed to the protocols of studying at this level.  As for the online facilities the user experience was not pleasant and created extra work trying to manage the hundreds of comments appearing on a regular basis.

So I achieved 74.85% for my mark. I am not sure how this relates to the rest of the students marks however considering the the work I presented, time spend on the research and reporting plus online discussion participation, seems fair to me.

Final Note: Use of Sourcing

I will be posting the written report I did with sourcing however typically I do not source my blog posts. If you ever have any questions about sources for my blog posts please feel free to contact me.

Is taking a more academic approach to research beneficial or not? Feel free to comment.


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