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Researching a Historiography

This guide will provide you with information on researching for a historiographic essay, guide you to Pace resources to use for research and link to additional resources that may be helpful in completing your assignment.

Step 1: Select a Topic & Acquire Background Info

Lightbulb with exclamation point inside to represent ideasSTEP 1: Select a Topic & Acquire Background Information

  1. Brainstorm a topic
    • Take a look at your course readings for potential topics
    • Consider what topics you are interested in and make a list of concepts - it will make the research easier if you're engaged with it!
    • Use the search strategies tab on the left to search for examples of historiographies for inspiration 
  2. If it is helpful to see things graphically, you can consider creating a mind map of potential topics. This can help you articulate all of the sub-topics to narrow down the perspectives you wish to research. 
  3. Acquire background information (if needed) 
    • If you're a bit unfamiliar with the major aspects of your topic, use sources like Wikipedia, Wikipedia references or an encyclopedia resource like Britannica Academic, available through the Pace Library

Step 2: Start Searching for Historiographies & Develop Annotations

STEP 2: Start Searching for Historiographies & Develop Annotations

  1. Select a database to search (use the "Find Journal Articles" tab on the left) and search for your topic + the termA magnifying glass icon on a yellow background historiography.  Alsosearch for books which can add perspectives to your analysis. 
    • For example, a potential search could be "Civil Rights" AND Historiography (see below) 
    • Another example could be "civil rights movement" OR "civil rights" AND Historiography

Three search boxes, in the first box is the term historiography and in the second box is the string "civil rights"

  1. Briefly review the abstracts and details about the search results. Save the most relevant papers and books to review in more detail. 
  2. Begin writing brief descriptions - called annotations - of each source which will allow you to see the potential relevance and specific historical perspective of each source. 
  3. There are some strategies to quickly review the perspectives in each source:
    • Review the table of contents or chapter descriptions of books to see what topics are discussed
    • Search for book reviews which will provide a summary of the author's purpose and conclusions
    • Review the abstract, introduction and conclusion of journal articles to look for key discussion points

Step 3: Continue Searching for Additional Perspectives

4-piece puzzle being held up by two handsSTEP 3: Continue Searching for Additional Perspectives

  1. Remember to consult your assignment for how many sources you need. You should be finding more than you will use so you are consulting a wide variety.  
  2. Select additional databases to search. As you've narrowed down your broader topic (such as Civil Rights Movement) to a more specific topic to analyze (development of mass incarceration), you can also change your keywords to find additional sources and gather a comprehensive look at your topic. 
  3. Review your assignment for guidance on how to organize your paper and analysis of each source. You can consult the Examples tab on the left for options on how to organize your paper (chronologically by source, by historical perspective, reviewing major schools of thought). 

What is a historiography?

Video Credit: Created by First-Year Composition students at the University of South Florida