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For the past five years I've been using a mnemonic tool in graduate seminars, which walks students through everything we need to know about a book. I call it #THOMAS and it works really well 1/
The T in #THOMAS is Topic: the basics of the who, what, when and where. What the book is about 2/
The H in #THOMAS is Historiography. What debates is this book intervening in? What does it add to/challenge in these conversations? 3/
The O in #THOMAS is Organization. Is it thematic, chronological, innovative in any way? What can we learn by closely studying the table of contents about the hierarchy of the book's argument, or by looking at chapters' internal structure? 4/
The M in #THOMAS is Methodology. What methods does this book use, which archives, what approach does it take to analyzing its sources? 5/
The A in #THOMAS is the Argument, and where we usually spend the most time of course. A simple statement of the book's argument is often surprisingly elusive, but we also consider beyond that how the THOM part of our discussion creates the Argument in different ways 6/
Finally the S in #THOMAS is "So What?" or alternatively Stakes or Significance. For readers who have no interest in the specifics of the Topic of even the Argument, why would this book be useful? This is where the conversation usually gets the most interesting 7/
The order of #THOMAS is in roughly ascending order of importance, so it works well as a device to structure class. Here is a handout that I use to explain the system. If any #twitterstorians decide to try it out, let me know how it went! 8/fin

A few more #THOMAS thoughts, in response to some questions. I find it takes about two hours to thoroughly THOMAS a book. I lead the discussion the first week, then hand it off to the students. With the structure in place, it makes it easier to effectively lead discussion 9/
I have had very limited success using #THOMAS in undergrad classes, but some of my colleagues now do so. If you try it and have thoughts on adaptation, please share! 10/
I also find that it #THOMAS doesn't work nearly as well for articles - something about the heft of monographs is a much better fit 11/
Someone asked about writing - and absolutely; though I did not conceive of this as a tool for writing, it has had the effect of making me #THOMAS my own work all the time. A few people mentioned book reviews, and it seems like another useful application 12/
I've been asked how to attribute this to me if you use it; I'm planning to write up #THOMAS more formally, but in meantime you can cite this thread, and I even looked up Chicago style for you!
Agmon, Danna. Twitter post. April 11, 2018, 5:16 pm. URL [of any post in this thread]
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