Historical Research an Amazing Adventure
- Research: 1. Careful or diligent search 2. Studious inquiry or examination 3. The collecting of information concerning a particular subject.
Historical Research: An amazing adventure
Researching History is an important part of discovering who we are as people, family, nation, and citizens. By digging into history, you discover an understanding of past events by finding, examining, and interpreting the evidence left by our ancestors.
Like an investigation the evidence, comes in many forms, such as books, historical locations, recorded documents, maps, photographs, and artifacts.
Starting your historical research will lead you to libraries, archives, museums, cemeteries, battlefields, parks, and many other places where the treasures of our past can be found.
1) You must know something about the subject you are researching. Make sure your subject is not too broad or general, such as the Civil War, but find one part of the Civil War you are interested in, like a certain General or a specific battle and narrow your search results to make your research easier and more precise.
2) Make a list of words dealing with your study subject, and when you first start searching on the Internet or at the library, search for those specific words.
3) Good research questions define your search. The more specific you make your questions the better the search results. A good “defined” research question will lead you on a trail to your next question. As you discover answers to your questions, your questions will change, grow, evolve, and refine. This step is important to find the essence of your search.
Trouble finding something to research? Consider what you already know. Make a list of things you have studied in school or list your interests. Number these by their importance, and you have a great list to use for a research project.
The Internet is an excellent research tool, but remember, that anyone can put anything they want on websites without proving it. Only use reliable sites to do your research. Go to the library, archival, College, and University sites. Visit online museums and online community history sites. Always visit the Library of Congress research site at: www.loc.gov/index.html and the National Archives at: www.archives.gov.
I love visiting these sites, and I like looking at old photos and listening to old recordings. The Internet can be an incredible toolbox of connections for research.
Libraries, Museums, and Cemeteries also provide excellent resource, but when you visit, be prepared with information so you can ask your questions to professionals who can help you find your answers. Do not be afraid to ask questions, but have your questions prepared so as not to waste the time of these very busy people.
Dig deep to learn and discover
Use Primary Source Documents such as diaries, journals, personal letters, business records, and much more. These documents have the closest ties to the real events and actual people that experienced these events. Do not forget photographs, interviews, transcripts, newscasts, and voice or musical recordings.
Secondary Sources are essential too. These sources are directly related “about” a primary source. Specialists who have also studied the topic you are researching may have written books or resources where they comment, interpret, or summarize Primary Source materials. Their expertise in the subject you are studying can be invaluable.
You can research several different types of documents; most all of them can be found in libraries, museums, archival collections or on the Internet. I use all of these types to do my research.
- Diaries, Journals, Personal Interviews, Personal Letters, Business Documents
- Legal and Government Records
- Periodicals, Newspapers, Magazines
- Oral Histories, Voice Recordings
The more places you search to answer your research questions, the more information you will find. Remember, once you have completed all your research, you must organize your notes, photocopies, books, and files and begin to assemble the information you have found.