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HIST 101: Historical Writing

Why?

Always, always, always begin your research by getting an overview. Do this for the same reason everyone loves Wikipedia. The reference/encyclopedia sources below, all electronic, will:

  • give you an overview of your topic;
  • introduce key ideas and terminology relevant to your topic;
  • suggest some important books, articles, and more;
  • tell you WHO are the most important researchers in this area;
  • help you narrow/focus your research topic/question. 

Find a GREAT encyclopedia article!

I'm betting you've used Wikipedia before when exploring a topic for research. Well, subject encyclopedias are like wikipedia but you know who is providing the information in them! They are great places to get an authoritative overview of your topic. They will give you the BIG PICTURE, some HISTORY and BACKGROUND. They will also give you some LANGUAGE and may lead you to some additional resources. The three main databases for encyclopedia articles are linked above.

They don't quite work like wikipedia, so take a moment read the tips below for using them. 

When you find an article you want, you can get a properly-formatted (the database will help you with this!) citation along with a stable URL or Permalink for it right there. For Credo & Gale eBooks, you will find both at the end of the article. In Oxford you can block-copy the URL  for the link and get a formatted citation by clicking on the teeny pencil in the upper right of the fulltext display. 

Credo works a lot like Google/Wikipedia for searching. Gale eBooks & Oxford Reference, however, require a little more thoughtful searching, so I have included some tips, for both. You would be wise to read those tips carefully.

Gale eBooks Tips:

Start searching with a simple word or phrase in the box labeled Document Title. 

If the results appear terribly irrelevant or odd, try one/more of the following:

  • use the Document Type Limit to select Topic Overview.
  • scroll through your results, though, keeping in mind that I have found the order to be far from "most relevant first!"
  • try different words/phrases in your search.

If you don't get anything good, try putting words/phrases in the search box labeled Keyword. If those results appear terribly irrelevant or odd, try one/more of the following:

  • use the Document Type Limit to select Topic Overview.
  • scroll through your results, though, keeping in mind that I have found the order to be far from "most relevant first!"
  • try different words/phrases in your search.

Oxford Reference Online is tricky. Start by entering basic words or phrases in the search box in the upper right. Once you get results, don't even look at them! Immediately use the Narrow Your Choices REFINE TERMS (blue column to the left of results) pulldown to select Entry Title

& click Update. Additionally, you can eliminate the many short dictionary entries by using the Reference library limit at the bottom of that same blue column. Keep in mind, that we do not have everything in this database. However, those items with the red lock on them might be available to you in book/print form, just not online. You can check them in OSCAR.