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Primary Sources: Research Tips

Find and use primary sources in your research.

Research Tips

Start your research early. 

Read actively and critically.

Write as you go. 

Think about your sources and evaluate them thoroughly.

Ask your librarian for help navigating collections.

Document your sources carefully.

Maintain a working bibliography as you do your research.

Use reference and secondary sources for background information and to situate your argument within a scholarly conversation.

Recommended Reading

Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams.  The Craft of Research, 3rd ed.  Chicago:  Univ of Chicago Press, 2008. 
This book is highly recommended for its clear and reasoned methodology and guidance on developing a tangible research thesis.
Call #:  Bobst Reserves Q180.55 .M4 B66 2008; Tamiment Ref Q180.55 .M4 B66 2008. 

William Cronon.  Learning to Do Historical Research:  A Primer for Environmental Historians and Others
http://www.williamcronon.net/researching/index.htm  
Although this website was created with environmental historians in mind, it is intended to assist, "anyone seeking to learn the craft of doing historical research."  The website follows the steps outlined in The Craft of Research.

Thomas Mann.  The Oxford Guide to Library Research:  How to Find Reliable Information Online and Offline, 3rd ed.  New York:  Oxford Univ Press, 2005.
Every researcher should consult this excellent volume before embarking on a project. The Guide covers encyclopedias, subject headings and the library catalog, browsing, periodical indexes, keyword searches, citation searches, related record searches, review articles, published bibliographies, hidden resources, and more.

Jenny Presnell.  The Information Literate Historian.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2007.  The compact format of this book belies its great value as a tool for researchers.  It is especially useful for helping readers intelligently select, evaluate, and use primary and secondary sources.  Presnell uses creative examples and well reasoned prose to illustrate the questions to ask before during and after the research process.  Includes recommended resources, and documentation and writing. guidelines

Mary Lynn Rampolla.  A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 6th ed.  New York:  Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009.
This is extremely useful, exceedingly portable guide demystifies the research process and guides readers through the steps.

Research Help

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