Resources for History

This guide will provide students doing research in history with a platform for finding primary and secondary sources for their papers.

Getting Started

The first step to any research project is selecting your topic. This can be challenging, especially if your assignment is very broadly defined.

One way to narrow down your research options is to use reference works (subject encyclopedias, bibliographic essays, even Wikipedia), to get your bearings. These overviews of a subject area can give you the big picture, and perhaps generate questions you want to explore in more detail. Some call this "presearch" since it happens before actual research begins. We all know to use Wikipedia cautiously; just remember to read critically and consider the sources of information you find there.

Subject encyclopedias are the great reference sources since they are written by recognized experts in the field, contain citations or suggestions for further reading, and sometimes introduce you to the significant debates and controversies on your topic.

- Adam Beauchamp, Tulane University, History Research Guide: Background Info

Evaluating Online Resources

When evaluating online resources, there are five things to look for:


Authority

Why should you trust the person that gave you this information? Is it from a credible source?


Currency

Is the site up to date? Is the information in your article current with events and technology?


Design and style

Is the site professionally designed, or does it look like a personal blog? (Note: sometimes the look of sites can be deceiving)


Objectivity

Is the information presented in a balanced, objective manner? Is the author trying to sway you in some way?


Navigation

Can you find the information you need in the site easily? Does the site direct you to places to find more information?