Talking History Event Summary

While the lecture from Professor Harris was supposed to be covering his findings from his work about a Soviet airline (I am unsure of its name), the lecture was mostly about his research process and what historians do besides researching. Professor Harris started off his talk by saying that there are three main things historians do: personal research, organizing conferences with fellow historians, and peer reviewing scholarly works. During his own personal research for his topic of this Soviet airline, he found that letters of complaints that were sent to this business were the most helpful. Professor Harris found that these letters of complains contrasted with letters sent to the government about housing in years before; these letters show that there were changes in expectations of the people in the Soviet Union, from wanting livable housing conditions, to wanting an airline to personally call a person’s house if their flight was running late.

After Professor Harris was finished with discussing his topic and research process, he went on to explaining the peer review process. He described peer reviewing as being “quality control” in the process of publishing an academic work. Some advice that Professor Harris gave to the audience about peer reviewing is to understand the difference between “petty” reviews, and actual constructive reviews. He said that if someone was harping on a minor error (such as a simple, non-controversial translation issue), then the critique is likely more on the unhelpful, “petty” side. (He gave a specific example to this, which is why he explained it further.) Another good piece of advice he gave about receiving peer reviews is to “check your ego at the door,” because people reviewing your work are more than likely there to help you, not hurt you. I found I got a lot of good advice on peer reviewing from this Talking History lecture.