Research Project

This semester-long project will allow you to demonstrate your skills as a historian by researching any aspect of history and culture in Colonial Latin America. How you frame your historical question and the approach you take are up to you. Whether you analyze the economics of the silver trade, changing gender roles after Spanish conquest in Mexico, the impacts of the Haitian Revolution in the wider Atlantic World, environmental consequences of plantation agriculture, or slave resistance on Brazilian sugar regions, the goal is for you to bring your own intellectual curiosity to our collective consideration of Latin America and its history.  This assignment will allow you to show your appreciation of the diversities of cultures and historical experiences in colonial Latin America.  You’ll share your research in a 4-6 minute movie (audio slideshow) created using iMovie.

Student Learning Outcomes (based on the AHA Tuning Project):

Students will:

  • identify a significant research question about Colonial Latin American history
  • demonstrate their skills of historical research in finding primary and secondary sources
  • produce an effective narrative that describes and analyzes the past to make a sophisticated interpretive argument.
  • understand the complex nature of the historical record by considering primary texts with very different perspectives.
  • use sound, images, and narrative to craft a compelling, sophisticated piece of digital storytelling

We will break this project into multiple steps with numerous chances for revision and refinement during the course of the semester.

  • First few weeks of class: come see me to talk about project ideas.
  • Initial blog post with two research ideas and why they are important on Wednesday, September 11.
  • Research Project Blog Post with your revised research question and source ideas on Wednesday, September 25.  4-5 paragraph post that describes your research question, explains its historical significance, and identifies relevant, high-quality sources (4-5 scholarly sources, and 3-4 primary sources).
  • Research Prospectus: Upload abstract and annotated bibliography to Moodle by 10am on Friday, October 18.
  • Full storyboard (500-700 word script and list of images) is due by noon on Monday, October 28. 
  • Optional: Deadline for submitting your revised script and revision memo for my feedback  is Wednesday, November 6.
  • You must bring your voice-over track, images, and audio clips for our iMovie work day on Wednesday, November 13.  If you use a Macbook, please bring it to the workshop.
  • Final Audio Slideshow: Post abstract and YouTube url (web link) to Moodle by Friday, November 22 at 10am. You are welcome to make your video “unlisted” or “public” but not “private”, or we won’t be able to see it!

Research Prospectus (5%)

Your prospectus has two parts:

  1. a 200-300 word abstract that explains your research question, central historical argument, use of sources, and larger implications
  2. an annotated bibliography with at least four scholarly sources and two primary sources related to your research.

Audio Slideshow/iMovie (20%)

CLA Audio Slideshow Rubric FA19

This project is an exercise in digital storytelling.  Your audio slideshow will combine a voiceover analysis of your material culture object with images that enhance your argument. Each student will create a five to six minute audio slideshow using iMovie.  You’ll upload your final project to YouTube to share it with the class.

Think about the attributes of a compelling audio slideshow:

  • Descriptive, vivid language
  • Clear argument supported by concrete examples
  • Logical transitions and a clear link between slides and audio
  • Interesting images that support your argument
  • Images from a variety of sources, perspectives, and mediums

More tips:

  • You can plan out your storyboard using an online tool like StoryboardThat or in a word processing program in Word or Google.
  • Draft a script for your slideshow that provides a contextual introduction to your project. Think carefully about how the medium (in this case, an audio file) should inform your composition. Make sure that you have a clear argument, that you vary sentence length and structure, and that you favor active verbs and descriptive language. Your audio should be at least four minutes long, but no more than six.
  • Think about how to use visuals creatively to enhance your argument.
  • Plan the timing of your slideshow carefully. Consider how much time to allow between images, and how to sync the images and text. Too many images passing by quickly frustrate your viewer because they don’t have time to process the information. Try to aim for at least five seconds screen time for most slides (It is ok to have a few exceptions.) Too long on a single image can be dull. One strategy is to look for different views of the same image, or multiple images to show your point.
  • Edit, revise, and refine your storyboard carefully.
  • Strive for visual uniformity in your presentation. Most professional audio slideshows use black backgrounds because it streamlines the visual effect.
  • You are designing for a computer screen rather than a projection, so you don’t need to use huge fonts that can be seen from the back of the room. Be consistent with your font choice, size, and basic layout.
  • Make sure that you crop your images to best make your point.
  • Don’t blow up an image so much that it becomes pixilated or illegible.
  • No clip art. Please. It is not cute or funny.
  • Don’t use slide transitions. Simple is best.
  • Make sure you include the source for all source images and audio in a final “sources” slide. Follow Chicago bibliography style.

Every step of this process takes time and cannot be rushed! It will be impossible to create an acceptable presentation at the last minute.

Image Sources (licensed for educational use with attribution)

Archive of Early American Images, John Carter Brown Library

New York Public Library Open Images Digital Gallery

World Images Database

Library of Congress

Smithsonian Gallery of Images

Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

American Museum of Natural History, South American Ethnographic Collection

American Museum of Natural History, Mexico & Central American Collection

Audio Slideshow Resources

Free and Open Media Resources

Using Audacity for Recording

Digital Studio

iMovie Workshop Resources and Agenda, Ed Tech