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Historical Research and Writing
Terms in this set (52)
based on secondary sources and written for non-specialists
Examples of Tertiary Sources
encyclopedias, dictionaries, and textbooks
something written by a historian based on primary or other secondary sources
Types of Secondary Sources
book, essays/articles, conference paper, dissertations, and theses
a nonfiction book mostly based on primary sources
a nonfiction book mostly based on secondary sources
Uses of Tertiary Sources
to begin the basis of a topic you are studying, to find secondary sources, do not cite these sources in your research paper
20-30 pages; in books of collective essays or in academic journals
Uses of Secondary Sources
to learn facts about the historical context of the primary sources you are reading, to learn how (what perspective or sources used) others have written on the topic your studying, to find primary and other secondary sources
when scholars submit their work (secondary source) to others (their peers) for review, all "academic" or "professional" history writing is submitted to peer review, usually "blind" review
peer reviewed journal
a written (or unwritten) object from the past on which historians depend in order to create their own depiction of the past; provides evidence about the existence of a event
Unwritten Primary Sources
artifacts (physical remains of an old culture), oral sources (lyrics to songs, myths, interviews, and sound and video recordings)
Written Primary Sources
manuscript sources and published sources
not meant for the public, unpublished, unintentional
published, edited letters or journal; records meant to be public: government records, organizational annual reports news media public
Goals of Peer Review
1. Catch "sloppy scholarship"
-Missing or inaccurate references
- Factual errors
- Errors in logic
- Failure to relate work to that of other scholars
2. Stop "extreme" views
3. As a result of the review, authors revise work
Results of Peer Review
To make academic writing credible and accurate
I. Archives and Research Libraries
• An institution committed to both the preservation and use of its collections
• Special preservation techniques
• Programs to encourage research
• Closely track users
• Often produce museum-like exhibits for public
• More limited hours than other libraries
Types of Archives and Research Libraries
Public/Governmental Archives and Research Libraries
1. National Archives and Records Administration
2. Library of Congress
3. State archives/libraries
4. Municipal and school district archives
5. "Special Collections and Archives" in state university libraries
Private Archives and Research Libraries
1. "Special Collections and Archives" in private university libraries
2. Archives of private organizations
3. Independent research libraries
4. Larger museums
5. Larger local historical societies
Independent research libraries
- 19 in the IRLA
- Presidential libraries
- Membership libraries
Archives of private organizations
- Church groups, corporations, etc.
What types of materials do Archives and Research libraries hold?
• Official organizational records and reports
• "Papers" or "Collections" or prominent individuals
- "Finding aids"
• Old, rare, fragile books
• Old or discontinued serials (anything that is published repeatedly)
• Ephemera (anything in a collection that is not a piece of writing)
"Papers" or "Collections" or prominent individuals
- "Finding aids"
anything that is published repeatedly
anything in a collection that is not a piece of writing
Archive Research Etiquette
• Contact archivist, preferably by email, stating what you want to see
• On arrival, complete an annual form with personal information and research interests
• Store everything except: pencil, paper, laptop, and power cord
• Complete item request form, often with your name
• The item brought to you and you're seated in full view of staff
• You are told how to use the item
• May adk you to announce if you are temporarily leaving the room
• Almost always copying id done by the staff
• They tell you how to cite information from their collections
• If they fund your research, and you publish something, thy ask you for a free copy
Role of Archivists
• Truly experts in their collections
• Once they know your research interests, they may volunteer information on other sources you don't even know about
• It's really helpful to cultivate a good relationship
Three Common Myths about Historical Writing
1. Historical writing is assembled from clear and complete evidence
2. Primary sources are more "objective" or "accurate" than secondary ones
3. Historical change is linear
So what is good historical writing?
Begin finding a question, a puzzle, an anomaly, or a surprise. These can take many forms, but most often they involve some kid of comparison, which provides a context for the question. Historical work is based on the idea that there is an "issue" requiring an explanation.
based on the idea that there is an "issue" requiring an explanation
How do Historians construct strong narratives/ arguments?
1. Begin with a historical question that is
2. Gather and read as many sources as possible
3. Systematically question your primary sources
4. Write your narrative
Begin with a historical question that is...
it increases our understanding about a bigger issue
you have to be able to imagine another answer
there are available primary resources
Gather and read as many sources as possible
a. Use mostly secondary sources to understand the socio-cultural and geographic context of the time period being studied (contextualization)
b. Use mostly primary sources to imagine (explain) the experiences of your subjects or historical actors. (historical imagination)
3. Systematically question your primary sources
a. Question the text
b. Question its context
Question the text
What type of document? Its purpose? Its date? Its intentionality?
Question its context
- The author's socio-cultural status? Their trustworthiness? Their competency?
- The immediate context
Write your narrative...
By placing your historical imagination in historical context
shortest possible summary of the answer to your question
the full explanation of your these (your paper)
History (Writing) is...
An analysis of past events, which is supported by a logical interpretation of primary and secondary sources, and answers a historical question or solves a historical problem.
Historian's Aim is not to...
- Offer the "final word"
- Write "bias free"
- Tell "the Truth"
Historian's Aim is to write...
When historians write on the same topic they tend to disagree
a. On which event is the most important
b. Continuity and change
c. Objectivity problem
- All have sources have author bias
- All researchers have bias
How to solve the objectivity problem?
- You must be conscious of your bias and your sources' bias
- Aim for objectivity although you will never reach it
- Don't even try for objectivity
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