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HIS496 - History Seminar

What you'll find in this guide

This guide to research sources in history provides suggestions for background information, primary and secondary resources, and how to cite your sources within your paper.

Research Strategies

Recommended Strategy to Begin Your Research

Before you begin doing the actual research, you might want to use the template for a Primary Sources Research Project from the University of Minnesota's Assignment Calculator to see out how much time you have to complete each phase of the research project. Although you can't create a project dateline (only for U of M students), you can see the percentage of the time you should take for each step and figure the dates from that. Of course, always defer to your professor's deadlines! 

Begin your research by reading some background information about your topic. Make a list of key people, dates, and terms relating to your topic. Check out the facets of your topic using the Concept Map tool or find a topic page on CredoReference.

Once you have studied the background of your topic, locate primary and secondary sources with which to write your paper.

Tip: Start your research with secondary sources.  See which primary sources were used by the authors of the secondary sources, and then try to track them down.

Determine other types of primary sources to use:

  • Find digitized primary source collections on the web (see list on Primary Sources tab)
  • Find published primary sources using the online catalog.

Follow Rampolla's* advice:

  • Remember to ask those detective questions: Who? What? Where? When? and Why?
  • Try to discover the context in which an event occurred.
  • Examine the causes of an event.
  • Ask questions about the relationship between the continuity of ideas, institutions, and conditions and changes that have occurred.


* Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History (Boston: Bedford/St Martin's, 2012) 3-4.

Research Assistance

Get one-on-one help from a librarian by scheduling an appointment. Go to the Research Assistance Request Form, fill it out, then bring the resources you've already gathered along with all your questions about your research. The librarian will do some pre-searching from your request form and help answer your questions.

Need help?

Chat with a librarian

Our chat service can be accessed by the chat button at the bottom of your screen. You can chat with Doane's librarians during business hours. Outside of those hours, the chat button will become a convenient way to e-mail the librarians with your question.