Resource Spotlight: Research Methods Primary Sources

Ordinarily, we take to this space to tell you about sources for your research. This month, we are highlighting a resource to help you perform that research. Research Methods: Primary Sources is designed to help those who are researching in the social sciences and humanities (especially history) work with primary sources. Research Methods: Primary Sources lets you teach yourself how to do scholarly work with primary sources. This could be helpful if you wanted to research legal history for your own writing. It might also be helpful if you are working as a Research Assistant to a professor who does historical research.

Recall that primary sources are documents or artifacts that provide evidence or firsthand testimony of events that happened in the past. Secondary sources are things that are written about primary sources. A letter from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Eleanor Roosevelt is a primary source. A book written by an author about the Roosevelts’ marriage is a secondary source. Research Methods: Primary Sources does help you find primary sources, but it also teaches you how to evaluate them for credibility and bias. It teaches you the importance of what primary sources did and did not survive. A fashion historian would not say that all English women in the 16th century wore those big, frilly collars just because we find paintings of Queen Elizabeth I wearing them.

Armada Portrait - Wikipedia
But you have to admit she looks amazing.

The Learning Tools are guides, essays, and interviews with scholars. You can read about best practices for researching marginalized groups and get some advice on working with spreadsheets, something that anyone who has ever found herself in over her head in a poorly organized spreadsheet can appreciate. Just me?

The Case Studies let you take a peek at how scholars have dealt with primary sources around different source types (ex. photographs), themes (ex. advertising), and data sets (ex. ships’ logs).

If you want to perform primary source research according to best practices, Research Methods: Primary Sources can take you from fumbling ex-history major to confident researcher who knows the sources, where to find them, and how to use them.

Give it a look and, as always, please contact the librarians if you have any questions or need assistance.

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