Dan Cohen

10 Most Popular History Syllabi
Posted to Google and the World of Search on 11 January 2006, 7:38 PM EST

Google and the World of SearchMy Syllabus Finder search engine has been in use for three years now, and I thought it would be interesting to look back at the nearly half-million searches and 640,000 syllabi it has handled to see which syllabi have been the most popular. The following list was compiled by running a series of calculations to determine the number of times Syllabus Finder users glanced at a syllabus (had it turn up in a search), read a syllabus (actually went from the Syllabus Finder website to the website of the syllabus to do further reading), and "attractiveness" of a syllabus (defined as the ratio of full reads to mere glances). Here are the most popular history syllabi on the web.

#1 - U.S. History to 1870 (Eric Mayer, Victor Valley College, total of 6104 points)

#2 - America in the Progressive Era (Robert Bannister, Swarthmore College, 6000 points)

#3 - The American Colonies (Bruce Dorsey, Swarthmore College, 5589 points)

#4 - The American Civil War (Sheila Culbert, Dartmouth College, 5521 points)

#5 - Early Modern Europe (Andrew Plaa, Columbia University, 5485 points)

#6 - The United States since 1945 (Robert Griffith, American University, 5109 points)

#7 - American Political and Social History II (Robert Dykstra, University at Albany, State University of New York, 5048 points)

#8 - The World Since 1500 (Sarah Watts, Wake Forest University, 4760 points)

#9 - The Military and War in America (Nicholas Pappas, Sam Houston State University, 4740 points)

#10 - World Civilization I (Jim Jones, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, 4636 points)

This is, of course, a completely unscientific study. It obviously gives an advantage to older syllabi, since those courses have been online longer and thus could show up in search results for several years. On the other hand, the ten syllabi listed here range almost uniformly from 1998 to 2005.

Whatever its faults, the study does provide a good sense of the most visible and viewed syllabi on the web (high Google rankings help these syllabi get into a lot of Syllabus Finder search results), and I hope it provides a sense of the kinds of syllabi people frequently want to consult (or crib)—mostly introductory courses in American history. The variety of institutions represented is also notable (and holds true beyond the top ten; no domination by, e.g., Ivy League schools). I'll probably do some more sophisticated analyses when I have the time; if there's interest from this blog's audience I'll calculate the most popular history syllabi from 2005 courses, or the top ten for other topics. If you would like to read a far more elaborate (and scientific) data-mining study I did using the Syllabus Finder, please take a look at "By the Book: Assessing the Place of Textbooks in U.S. Survey Courses."

[How the rankings were determined: 1 point was awarded for each time a syllabus showed up in a Syllabus Finder search result; 10 points were awarded for each time a Syllabus Finder user clicked through to view the entire syllabus; 100 points were awarded for each percent of "attractiveness," where 100% attractive meant that every time a syllabus made an appearance in a search result it was clicked on for further information. For instance, the top syllabus appeared in 1211 searches and was clicked on 268 times (22.13% of the searches), for a point total of 1211 + (268 X 10) + (22.13 X 100) = 6104.]

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