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. See How do I Cite Sources? for help.
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.
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 as well as its guidance in developing a tangible research thesis.
William Cronon. Learning to Do Historical Research: A Primer for Environmental Historians and Others
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, documentation, and writing guidelines.
Mary Lynn Rampolla. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007.
This extremely useful and exceedingly portable guide demystifies the research process and guides readers through the steps.
Whether using primary or secondary sources, in print or online, an essential step in the research process is evaluating your sources. Good scholarship requires careful reading and critical analysis of information.
Basic evaluation criteria for all sources, adapted from The Information-Literate Historian by Jenny L. Presnell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), include the following:
Who created the item? What is his or her affiliation?
Audience and Purpose
Who is the intended audience? Why was the item created?
Accuracy and Completeness
Is the evidence reliable? Are the important points covered?
Footnotes and Documentation
Are the author's sources clearly identified with complete citations to allow you to find the original source yourself?
Perspective and Bias
How do the author's bias and perspective inform the arguments and evidence presented?