Part I: What is History?

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Part I: What is History?
Students use historical debates from one case study and a source book of historical readings to investigate the question ‘What is History?’.

What is History?

Key Questions:

What are the historical debates?

Who are the historians?

What are the aims and purposes of history?

How has history been constructed and recorded over time?

Why have the approaches to history changed over time?

The Readings

Students will use a source book of historical readings to gain a background understanding of historiographical issues in order to place the issues examined in their case study within a broader context.

Case Studies

Each case study has a principal focus and five associated areas of historical debate. The case study enables students to examine historiographical issues within a specific context.

Percentage of Course Time: 60 %

To investigate ‘What is History?’, students use the case study and the source book to learn to:
• identify different historical perspectives evident in sources

• analyse interpretations of a particular historical issue

• explain why different historians have different historical perspectives

• compare and contrast different interpretations of a particular historical issue

• use a variety of sources to develop a view about a historical issue

• use a variety of sources to challenge views on a historical issue

• communicate through detailed, well-structured texts to explain, argue, discuss, analyse and evaluate historical issues.
Students learn about ‘What is history?’ by using the case study and the source book to investigate the following key questions.
What are the historical debates in the case study?
– historical interpretations and perspectives (including recent historiography) of the issue

– popular interpretations and perspectives of the issue

  • changing approaches to the construction of the history of the issue.

Who are the historians?

– the identity of historians: biographical details, personal values and beliefs, philosophy of history, approaches to the construction of history, bias

  • the context of historians: gender, class, ethnicity, time, place, social and economic structures/change, political constraints, official and unofficial status.

What are the purposes of history?

– the aims and purposes of specific historical works

– changing interpretations and perspectives of the aims and purposes of history

  • changing interpretations and perspectives of the role of history.

How has history been constructed and recorded over time?
– changing methods of historians

– how historians work

– forms of historical communication: written, oral, visual, audio-visual, multimedia

  • types of history: eg political, social, economic, military, academic, popular, constitutional, national, local, surveys, area and period studies, biographies, psychohistories.

Why have approaches to history changed over time?

– the availability of historical evidence

– the contexts of historians

– changing interpretations and perspectives about approaches to the construction of history

changing philosophies of history

Option 12: Elizabeth I and the Elizabethan Age

Principal focus: students investigate changing interpretations of the evidence relating to the personality and achievements of Elizabeth I.
Students examine the approaches to history and interpretations (including recent historiography) that have resulted in historical debate in the areas of:
– constructions of Elizabeth’s identities and gender

– political and administrative leadership

influences on, and changes to, English culture

– religious beliefs and policies

– influence on changes to English systems of government.

Part 2: History Project
The history project provides the opportunity for students to design and conduct an investigation in an area of changing historical interpretation. Students develop and refine specific questions for investigation that add to their understanding of the key questions:

• Who are the historians?

• What are the purposes of history?

• How has history been constructed and recorded over time?

• Why have approaches to the construction of history changed over time?
Percentage of Course Time: 40 %


A project in which students investigate one or more significant historical questions in a topic area of their own choice


• Designing the investigation

• Conducting the investigation

• Presenting the findings from the investigation


The proposal: outline of focus questions, pre-reading and anticipated research strategies

The essay: synopsis and essay

The bibliography: source list and selected annotations

The process log: sequence of the process, personal reflections on, and evaluation of, methodology and validation of student work

Certification: a statement of authenticity signed by the principal, teacher and student


Criteria for assessing the project are based on:

• knowledge and understanding of key historical and historiographical terms, concepts and issues

• knowledge and understanding of significant historiographical processes

knowledge, understanding and skills in historical inquiry

• knowledge, understanding and skills in historical communication

Designing an Investigation

The topic must be developed from one or more of the following areas:

• an historical debate or controversy

• an historian’s or archaeologist’s work

• changing analysis of an archaeological site over time

• ethical issues surrounding an archaeological site

• contrasting approaches to a historical personality, issue or event

museums as history

• history in the media — film, documentary, fiction, docudrama, drama, poetry, opera

• an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the history of a personality, issue or event

• the impact of global or national events at a regional or local level

• oral history

• historical biography

local history

• the history of an institution

• critical analysis of a major historical work

• the use and misuse of history in either a specific context or over time.

The topic of the project should reflect an area of student interest; however, the topic:

• must focus on the fundamental historiographical concepts and issues of HSC History Extension

• may be developed from a case study but should cover substantially different ground

• must not overlap significantly with the examinable content of any other School Certificate or Higher School Certificate course.

Documenting the Project

The history project should be a product of the student’s own work. It should be a piece of work that is free of plagiarism. Plagiarism may be broadly defined as presenting as one’s own the thoughts, writings or inventions of another. While the students may draw on the assistance of other people in developing the project, the student must take care to avoid practices that may be the subject of claims of academic misconduct, including plagiarism.

Students should keep a record of:

• the proposal for the investigation

• sequentially dated records of the enquiry process

• dated notes and progressive drafts of work

• all sources used in preliminary notes and drafts.
Teachers should:

• sign and initial the process log at regular intervals

• maintain a file of final, submitted and assessed projects.

The Proposal

The proposal should contain:

• description of preliminary research

• enquiry questions

• research intentions in relation to

– areas/texts to examine

  • methodology.

The Essay

The essay should contain:

• synopsis

– this will be a brief description (300 words) on the development of the precise question that provides the focus of the essay; the ways the essay addresses

the precise question; the content used in the essay and why it was included.

• essay

– the essay is an argument in response to a precise question with evidence in support, the sources of which are acknowledged. It will be in written form and may be accompanied by appropriate graphic texts only as appendices (apart from short explanatory captions). The essay must not exceed 2,500 words.
The essay should contain material from a range of perspectives, including the student’s own views. A consistent system of referencing should be used to acknowledge the use of sources.

The Bibliography

The bibliography should contain:

• a consistently formatted alphabetical list of all sources used within the project

• evaluation of three of these sources. The reviews should:

– be selected for the three most valuable sources used in the history project

– not exceed 600 words in total

– explain the strengths and weaknesses of each source, considering its usefulness and reliability and the reasons it was valuable to the project and
the central argument of the essay.

The Process Log

The process log should contain:

• description of procedures

• log of sequential development of the topic

• record of major decisions of the project

• review: cumulative self, peer and teacher evaluation of the project and record of interviews.

Certification of the Project

A statement by the principal, teacher and student that the project is considered to be an original piece of work carried out by the student must be attached to the final copy of the project.

Certification is required to ensure that each submitted work is wholly the work of the student entered for the Higher School Certificate and has been completed under the supervision of the teacher. The Office of the Board of Studies will provide a certification form for this purpose. If the supervising teacher cannot certify the student’s work the school must complete a non-certification report document.
It is essential that:

• aspects of the process of development of the project take place in school time

• work completed away from school is regularly monitored by the supervising teacher

• each student sign a statement, witnessed by the supervising teacher, that the submitted major work is their own work

• the process log be submitted with the essay. This requirement is necessary for verification of authenticity and will be referenced in the case of appeals being made to the Board of Studies.



External Assessment

Internal Assessment

Part I: What is History?

Written examination 50

Question 1 25

Question 2 25

Assessment tasks 10

Part II: History Project

History Project 40

made up of:




Process Log




History Project Assessment Criteria





Coherent and appropriate description of:

• the development of the precise research question

• the way the essay addresses the precise question

• why content used in the essay was included

The Product


In response to the precise research question(s):

• presents a sustained and coherent argument

• supports argument through detailed coherent analysis and evaluation of significant historiographical questions

• uses a recognised system of referencing


The Bibliography

• Use of a range of relevant sources

• Consistently formatted alphabetical list

• Appropriate correlation of sources in bibliography to sources used in the essay

• Sound selection, analysis and evaluation of three sources

The Process


• Appropriate enquiry question(s)

• Sound analysis of relevant issues

• Coherent explanation of preliminary research and anticipated resources

The Process Log

• Detailed description of procedures and of the sequential development of the project

• Detailed analytical and coherent review of cumulative self, peer and teacher evaluation of the project


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