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HIST 300: Guide for History Thesis Writers

What secondary sources do I need?

- What scholarly conversations are relevant to your topic?

- What are the "layers" of your topic? Where would you locate your topic in the bigger picture?

The answers to these questions help determine what areas you need to consult in secondary sources and inform your keyword selection in library catalogs and article databases.

What types of primary sources are most likely to contribute perspective on my topic?

Populate your topic with people, events and controversies that provide keywords to help you find primary sources.

Interrogate your primary sources. Read them against other sources.

Determine what primary sources actually exist, what they can answer, and what you are qualified to use (i.e. consider language needs).

Be flexible and open to allowing your primary sources to inform and guide your inquiry about your historical topic.

personal narrative sources

media sources

government and legal sources

organization/ association sources

sources of social commentary

art and artifact Sources

scholarship as primary source

-- memoires

-- diaries

--correspondence

--description and travel (Library of Congress Subject Heading for travel writing)


 

-- newspapers

-- magazines

-- advertisements

***(mainstream and alternative presses)

***research the sources too, who were the editors, columnists, audience and what point of view is publication representing?

--Readers Guide

--Alternative Press Index

--Lexis Nexis (post 1995)

Browse our digital collection of newspapers and periodicals

-- United Nations

-- policy documents

-- trials

-- census data

**hard to keyword search large databases such as British Parliamentary Papers or Congressional Record.  Best to enter with citation

-Browse our digital collection of government information

-- pamphlets

-- posters

** the records of a group will contain meeting minutes, correspondence between members etc.

** can include “media”, i.e. periodical publication of the group

·     

-- non-specialist policy making/description

-- prescriptive materials (eg. About poverty in 19thc.)

-- manuals (eg. on letter writing, etiquette, cookbooks)

--pamphets, broadsides

--speeches

 

-- fine art

-- material culture

-- ephemera

--music

- ArtStor

--Browse our digital collection of image and sound databases

 *article databases that are archives of scholarly journals

-- JSTOR

-- Periodicals Archive Online

-- Periodicals Index Online

-- medical journals

-- law reviews

Words of Wisdom

“Not only do researchers need to identify specific resources to address their questions and support an argument, but they also may need to familiarize themselves with a new sub-field of history or work from another discipline.  Historians often need assistance orienting themselves to the resources available on a new topic, both primary and secondary.  Again, many scholars rely on citations, general web searches, and subscription databases when exploring new topics.  Few reported working with a librarian in these instances, and some rely instead on colleagues. In general, exploring new topics was reported as one of the most daunting aspects of the research process for historians.”

Jennifer Rutner and Roger C. Shonfeld, Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Historians: Final Report from ITHAKA S+RDecember, 10, 2012, p. 17.

“While I technically could complete a dissertation without stepping foot into an archive, I wouldn’t want to (and I don’t think such a dissertation would garner much respect). The archive is still essential. Texts are still essential.”

Rachel A. Snell, "Digital History: Pros and Cons," Khronikos: The University of Maine Graduate History Student Blog, September 20, 2013.