History Question

Research Assignment 3

To this point, you have identified a contemporary issue of interest and have begun to define the geographic and chronological parameters of a historical investigation into the issue’s origins (research assignment #1) and identified relevant secondary literature on your topic (research assignment #2).

In research assignment #3, you’re going to locate at least one historical primary source created before 1980. Click here for a definition of a primary source and here for examples of kinds of primary sources.

Step 1. Develop 1-2 date limiters for your primary source search. Go back to the Wikipedia article you used in RA1 and identify some important dates. You might, for example, choose a range of years around a country’s independence. If you’re not sure, start with a wide range, and then narrow it down. Add the date range that ultimately worked to the end of your project.

Step 2. Try multiple combinations of your search terms. Do not simply select the source at the top of the search results, and be sure to try at least two databases – find a source that will help you answer the research question from RA2. Analyze the source.

Some places you might look for primary sources:

HathiTrust (preserves published materials from a variety of libraries around the United States. It has especially strong collections in books and journals from the 19th and early 20th centuries).

Google Books (part of Google’s quest to own all information, Google Books is an initiative to digitalize nearly everything ever published. Out-of-copyright books are fully searchable).

Cold War International History Project (a project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars to document every side of the Cold War).

Avalon Project (prominent legal documents, including treaties, constitutions, colonial charters).

Internet Archive (this one is tricky as it contains lots of non-historical stuff, but occasionally turns up some great primary sources – depending on the topic).

The United Nations document section contains historical and contemporary UN documents related to international topics.

H. M. Stationery Service has United Kingdom government documents dating back to the 13th century; be sure to use “advanced search” so you can restrict your exploration to pre-1980 items.

JSTOR (Journal Storage – contains mostly scholarly journal articles that, if published during the time period, could serve as primary evidence. Be sure to use your date limiter).

JU’s library catalog (find historical primary sources with a search like this: your topic AND (diar* OR letter* OR interview* OR speech*).

Wikisource (part of the Wikimedia empire, Wikisource has good resources for some topics, but like Wikipedia depends on someone with interest providing them).

Internet History Sourcebook (created by Fordham University, this has a number of excerpts of longer primary sources)

Step 3. Write one analytical paragraph (similar to what you did for research assignment #1) that considers the following questions:

What kind of primary source is it?

Who is the intended audience?

What is the purpose of the source?

What is the historical context in which the source was written and read?

How might the author’s gender, race, or socioeconomic class compare to those of the people about whom he or she is writing?

What unspoken assumptions does the source contain?

Do NOT answer the above questions in list format. Instead, integrate the answers into a clear analytical narrative of the source. Make sure that you address every question.

Step 4. Cite your primary source using an endnote citation. Depending on the type of source that it is (newspaper article, book, speech) the formatting will be different. If you’re not sure how to cite it, consult the Chicago Style Quick Guide, or better yet see a librarian or Dr. Unangst during office hours. We can help!

Step 5. Research Question to Hypothesis / Thesis Statement. Go back to your revised research question from RA2 (or, if you changed your topic, be sure to clearly explain). Next, in light of your integrated analysis of collected sources to this point, and comments from Dr. Unangst provided in RA1 and RA2, type an initial hypothesis/thesis statement. A thesis statement is an answer to your research question. Remember when you craft your thesis statement that it should: (1) relate back directly to and clearly, fully answer your final, refined research question (from RA2), and (2) you should be able to demonstrate your thesis through a study of the history of your issue. Also, for information on how to write a thesis and key examples, see this guide. Make sure your thesis meets all of the criteria on the A(H) SMART thesis checklist in the history research project folder. I’ve attached RA1. I didn’t submit RA2 so whatever info is needed from RA2, YOU CAN assume that. Make it around 1 page

Your submission should thus include the following elements:

A. Your analytical paragraph

B. Primary source citation

C. Provisional thesis statement


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