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Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Historical knowledge: Students will be able to explain the major political, economic, social, and cultural developments in Japanese history from the early nineteenth century to the present.
  2. Research literature: Students will be able to analyze and interpret primary-source documents.
  3. Critical interpretation: Students will be able to interpret and discuss the meanings and the historical and historiographical value of primary- and secondary-source texts.
  4. Critical analysis: Students will be able to analyze historical arguments and place them in a historiographical context.

Course Materials

You will need the following textbooks:

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You will complete these assignments during the course.

Map and Periodization Quiz

This quiz helps you solidify your knowledge of the geography and basic historical timeline of Japan. Knowing this material will help you more thoroughly understand the context of the events you’ll learn about.

Short-answer Questions

Most lessons include a set of short-answer questions that help you think through the implications of what you’re learning. Your answers should be concise and clear, with enough detail to address the question, but you don’t need to write extensively on each one. You will need to complete all 20 sets, but I will drop the lowest two scores.

Article and Book Dissections

These assignments ask you to “dissect” a book and an article. Using the provided [ LINK REMOVED ] Book or Article Dissection form, you’ll address the background of the author, the arguments presented, the evidence, the major events and actors, a brief outline of the piece, and the important passages. “Dissecting” secondary scholarship in this manner will help you become a better reader and refine your critical and analytical thinking skills.

Primary Source Essay

You will read Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s novel Naomi to help you focus on and critically evaluate a primary source and give you some practice in crafting an argument in preparation for the research paper.

Research Paper

Your paper should analyze at least one primary source within its historical context, applying the historical knowledge you have acquired in this course along with relevant secondary research.

Primary sources include, but are not limited to:  works of art, architecture, literature, music, historical documents, as well as material objects. You may select a textual primary source from Sources of Japanese Tradition. Using more than one primary source is fine, but all your focus should principally be on one and any others should be closely related to keep the focus of the paper narrow. The primary source(s) must originate after 1850 and before 1990, and the main primary source be identified at the bottom of the title page for the paper.

Your paper should:

The paper should be 8-10 pages long, not including title page and bibliography, which are required. Style and citation format should conform to the format and style in Turabian’s Manual for Writers.  

To help you work on the paper as you go, you will turn it in in stages:

  1. Sources of interest: Select two pieces that interest you from Sources of Japanese Tradition and send them to me for approval.
  2. Primary-source analysis I: Select one of the sources, with my feedback, and provide the basic information about it and your approach.
    1. Title
    2. Author name, location, and credentials
    3. Type (what kind of document it is)
    4. Date of creation
    5. Provenance/verification (how did the document come to us?)
    6. Intended audience
    7. Thesis statement (your argument, in one sentence)
  3. Historiographical survey: Survey and describe the current state of scholarship (the “existing literature”) regarding your chosen topic.
  4. Primary-source analysis II: Including the information from your historiographical survey and primary-source analysis, complete your paper by addressing the issues and evidence supporting your argument.
  5. Completed paper: The finished draft of your paper, with all necessary parts and edits according to my feedback.

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You will complete two exams for the course. Both exams include multiple-choice “historical literacy questions,” short-answer identifications, and longer essay questions.

I’ve provided study guides for both exams, which will help you focus your efforts and prepare.

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You will complete these assignments and exams during the course.

Short Answer Assignments (twenty, lowest 2 scores dropped) 18%
Map and Periodization Quiz 2%
Article Dissection: “Meiji Modernization” 3%
Primary Source Essay: Naomi 3%
Book Dissection: Empire of Dogs 4%
Research paper

  • Sources of interest—1%
  • Primary Source Analysis I—3%
  • Historiographic summary—3%
  • Primary-source analysis II—3%
  • Finished paper—20%
Midcourse Exam 20%
Final Exam 20%

Grade Scale

Your letter grade is calculated according to these percentages.

A 100–93%
A− 92–90%
B+ 89–87%
B 86–83%
B− 82–80%
C+ 79–77%
C 76–73%
C− 72–70%
D+ 69–67%
D 66–63%
D− 62–60%
E (fail) 59–0%

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


29 instructor-graded assignments. Assignments may not be resubmitted. 


2 proctored exams, including a combination of objective and written questions.

Exams may not be retaken. You must pass the final exam to earn credit for the course. 

Course Duration

You have one year to complete this course. You may purchase one three-month extension if you need more than a year to complete the course.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, and audio and video recordings) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2017 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514