A brief research guide for Jeffery Bradley's class, Fall 2010.
The Research Process
Choose a topic.
Do a brain dump: Write down what you already know about your topic, including
Names of people, organizations, companies, time period you are interested in, places of interest [countries, regions, cities]
Fill in the gaps in your knowlege: get background information from encyclopedias or other secondary sources. Wikipedia can be good here.
Select the best places/ databases to find information on your topic. Look under the History Databases tab of this guide for article database suggestions. Or use a catalog like Oskicat or Melvyl to search for books and other resources.
Use nouns from your brain dump as search terms.
Evaluate what you find. Change search terms to get closer to what you really want.
Refine Your Topic - Using the information you have gathered, determine if your research topic should be narrower or broader. You may need to search basic resources again using your new, focused topics and keywords.
Take a look this short tutorial on beginning your research for more ideas.
The Craft of Research [book]
This classic book on writing a college research paper, is easily skimmed or deep enough for the truly obsessed researcher, explains the whole research process from initial questioning, through making an argument, all the way to effectively writing your paper.
This link is to the Google Books preview. But buy a secondhand copy for yourself. It's worth the $8 bucks.
Guide to writing history papers
History Databases : Secondary Sources
Three suggested scholarly databases... there are more.
America: History and Life Indexes over 2,000 journals published worldwide on the history of the US and Canada from prehistory to the present. Includes all key English-language historical journals; selected historical journals from major countries, state, and local history journals; and a targeted selection of hundreds of journals in the social sciences and humanities.
JSTOR Includes over 1000 scholarly journals with access to more than 2 million articles. JSTOR does not include the most recent 3-5 years of the journals.
Historical Abstracts Indexes over 2,000 journals, as well as historical book reviews and dissertations, published worldwide about all aspects of world history (excluding US and Canada) from 1450 to the present.
Here are some primary source databases to begin with, but some students' topics will need different ones.
The library has created a strategy guide to searching for primary sources in the catalog.
ProQuest Congressional One stop shopping for U.S. congressional publications. Provides index and abstracts of congressional publications back to 1789, including full text Congressional Hearings from 1824-present, full text Committee Prints from 1830-present, full text Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports from 1916-present, full text United States Congressional Serial Set from 1789-1969, and legislative histories from 1970-present. For more information on how to find hearings, consult the Congressional Tutorials homepage
AP Images Includes Associated Press's current-year photo report and a selection from a 50-million image print and negative library dating from 1844-present. Currently contains about 700,000 photos, most of which are contemporary images made since late 1995.
Nation Digital Archive Full text access to The Nation, a weekly news magazine covering U.S. politics
and society since 1865.
Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) Indexes over 35,000 declassified documents spanning fifty years of US national security policy. Also includes a chronology, glossary of names, events, special terms, and a bibliography for each collection developed around a specific event, controversy, or policy decision.
DDRS (Declassified Documents Reference System) Over 75,000 documents and almost 500,000 pages of materials declassified via the Freedom of Information Act and regular declassification requests, making broad-based and highly targeted investigation of government documents possible. Nearly every major foreign and domestic event of these years is covered.
Off-campus Access to Library Resources
Before you can access UCB Library resources from off campus or via your laptop or other mobile devices, make sure you have configured your machine using one of two simple methods (Proxy Server is the quickest and easiest):
Here's some of what we covered in the library session on July 27.
Three kinds of topics || Three research strategies
1. The evolution of Stokely Carmichael
This is a kind of biographical topic, which is pretty easy to get started with because the search term is obvious, but the topic still needs to be narrowed to say something meaningful in a short [10 pp] paper
2. RFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis
This is a political history topic, with a specific event in mind, and a specific individual. This is an easy kind of topic to start researching because there are two very obvious search terms, and the time frame is self-defined. However it still needs to be narrowed to say something meaningful in a short paper.
3. Automobiles: Unions, Consumerism, and Social Change (1950s)
This is a social history topic, not associated with a single person, or a single event. This is a little harder to research because you need to specify what you mean, in order to narrow the topic. It helps to find the names of specific unions [in this case], and to consider what specific social changes you are interested in.
You need to think: what kind of primary sources would give evidence of this/these social change/s? How will you prove there really was an impact on society from this phenomenon?
What kind of topic do you have?
Where to search & what words to use [the fool and the street lamp]
What kinds of evidence [i.e., primary sources] do you want to find?
Biographical topics: What kinds of primary sources will give evidence of the changes this person went through or their impact on society? Why should we care about this person?
Event- based topics: You need to think: what kind of primary sources will give evidence of a relationship between the person and the event? Why should we care?
Social history topics: You need to think: what kind of primary sources would give evidence of this/these social change/s? How will you prove there really was an impact on society from this phenomenon?
Do a brain dump: note down names, dates, organization, events—anything you know about your topic. Use Wikipedia if you need more information. Which words do you think will be the best search terms?
Search for secondary sources in one of the recommended databases.
The library has created a strategy guide to searching for primary sources in the catalog. Read it for advice on how to find the kinds of primary sources you want. Then try to find a primary source written by somebody involved in your topic.
You do allow embedded content.
UC librarians and other academic librarians can answer your questions at any time! I will be notified if follow up is needed.
Well, what do you think?
Your individual topic probably requires sources I haven't mentioned. Let me know what else you'd like to discover.