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HIS 450: Senior Seminar

A guide to library research as a professional historian.

How Historians Search

Historical researchers often use documentary,  biographicaloral history, and archival methods, in addition to many of the methods commonly used across the social sciences. Historical research is often concerned with topics related to social change over time and data can take many forms, including photographs and secondary data and documents from a range of official and academic sources.  Literature reviews are an important part of many historical research projects and interpreting various sources critically is a key skill historians develop. 

One of the primary differences between typical college research and discipline-specific research in history is the amount of background information that is expected of you. As you research, you will start to pick up on what school of thought an historian might be representing. You will no longer only be using an encyclopedia to get general info, but will also need to become familiar with how different historians approach a topic and how you will situate your own research among these established interpretations. While this can be a less important consideration when doing work in an original area, most historical pursuits will fall within an established, and named, historical interpretation.

The amount of materials on a particular topic can be daunting. Effective research requires discerning what are the most essential or seminal works on a given topic. As an historian, you will not only be expected to know what you write, but also what you chose to leave out and why. Also, because you're becoming an independent and professional historian, you're not tied to Georgetown College Resources--all libraries (including the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and Morehead State), archives, and other organizations, as well as their published and un-published materials, are fair game.

Discipline Specific Resources

History is a research-intensive field. Understanding how the research process starts, builds, and concludes is vitally important for you starting out on your research assignment. To be successful in the history field, you must be able to know how to do original research in the field to build a research paper, thesis, or dissertation. These building blocks are vital to your success, and failure to master them will result in sub-par work that will not impress your professor or colleagues. 

To help you understand how to begin this process and the methods that you need to master, make use of the library's subscription to Sage Research Methods. This tool supports research at all levels by providing material to guide users through every step of the research process. Focused on a wide array of disciplines, Sage Research Methods can help you begin, organize, and understand the research you are doing for this class.


Start your research early and sustain your research habits!

With the advent of research databases, researchers can drown in the amount of information available. Historians must filter non-relevant information and select the more important information to support their arguments. Thorough approaches allow for well-structured and well-argued papers. This process cannot be done overnight!