Using sources in history essays

Primary sources refer to documents or other items that provide first-hand, eyewitness accounts of events. They publish secondary sources - often scholarly articles or books - that explain their interpretation. When you write a historical research paper, you are creating a secondary source based on your own analysis of primary source material. Examples of primary sources include diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memos, photographs, videos, public opinion polls, and government records, among many other things. Historical Newspapers and Magazines Newspaper and magazine articles can be excellent resources for primary source materials.

Newspapers and Magazines Historical. Online Databases - U. Government Information Along with the below databases, there is also a huge collection of government information in Randall Library. ProQuest Congressional Comprehensive online collection of primary source congressional publications and legislative research materials covering all topics, including government, current events, politics, economics, business, science and technology, international relations, social issues, finance, insurance, and medicine.

HeinOnline Contains more than 1, law and law-related periodicals. Department of State. Finding Archives and Special Collections in Randall Library Randall Library also contains some unpublished materials in its archives and special collections departments. Digital Library on American Slavery The Digital Library offers a searchable database of detailed personal information about slaves, slaveholders, and free people of color. EuroDocs: Online Sources for European History Western European mainly primary historical documents that are transcribed, reproduced in facsimile, or translated.

Europeana Contains millions of digital items texts, images, video, and sound provided by Europe's museums and galleries, archives, libraries and audio-visual organizations. Internet History Sourcebooks A series of sourcebooks providing electronic access to documents in the public domain. Making of America Cornell Full-text for 22 journals and books from the 19th century.

Ninteenth Century Documents Project Furman University professor Lloyd Benson works with students to provide this database of searchable transcribed documents on American history, with emphasis on sectional conflict and regional identity. Perseus Digital Library features a collections covering "the history, literature and culture of the Greco-Roman world. Before you begin Before you start your search, make a list of the terms, places, people, and specific events about which you want to find primary resources.

Contact Librarian. Coordinator of Liaison Librarian Services. Phone Number:. Twitter: shcrowe. Need Help? Related Guides Use these guides, too. Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources. Primary Sources Historical A list of primary source databases for which Randall Library pays to access.

Searching Beyond Randall Library is a guide to searching beyond Randall Library for hard-to-find items. Other History Research Guides is a list of all the research gudes for history. Did you find what you were looking for? Consider this sentence:. The reader expects another infinitive, but instead trips over the that. Note the two parts of this sentence:. The sentence jars because the neither is followed by a noun, the nor by a verb. Keep the parts parallel.

Make the parts parallel by putting the verb attacked after the not only. Do not confuse the reader with a phrase or clause that refers illogically or absurdly to other words in the sentence. Avoid following an introductory participial clause with the expletives it or there. Run-on sentences string together improperly joined independent clauses. Consider these three sentences:. The first fuses two independent clauses with neither a comma nor a coordinating conjunction; the second uses a comma but omits the coordinating conjunction; and the third also omits the coordinating conjunction however is not a coordinating conjunction.

To solve the problem, separate the two clauses with a comma and the coordinating conjunction but. You could also divide the clauses with a semicolon or make separate sentences. Remember that there are only seven coordinating conjunctions and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet. Write in sentences. A sentence has to have a subject and a predicate. If you string together a lot of words, you may lose control of the syntax and end up with a sentence fragment. Note that the following is not a sentence:.

How to Answer Source Questions - A-Level History

Here you have a long compound introductory clause followed by no subject and no verb, and thus you have a fragment. You may have noticed exceptions to the no-fragments rule. Skilful writers do sometimes intentionally use a fragment to achieve a certain effect.

Leave the rule-breaking to the experts. The first sentence has a nonrestrictive relative clause; the dates are included almost as parenthetical information. But something seems amiss with the second sentence. It has a restrictive relative clause that limits the subject World War I to the World War I fought between and , thus implying that there were other wars called World War I, and that we need to distinguish among them.

Both sentences are grammatically correct, but the writer of the second sentence appears foolish. Note carefully the distinction between that for use in restrictive clauses, with no comma and which for use in nonrestrictive clauses, with a comma. Remember—history is about what people do, so you need to be vigilant about agency. Surely, the writer meant to say that, in his analysis of imperialism, Fanon distinguishes between two kinds of hierarchy.

A comma after suggests fixes the immediate problem. Now look at the revised sentence. It still needs work. Better diction and syntax would sharpen it. Fanon does not suggest with connotations of both hinting and advocating ; he states outright. But between the elements A and B, the writer inserts Fanon a proper noun , suggests a verb , imperialists a noun , and establish a verb.

Notice that errors and infelicities have a way of clustering. If you find one problem in a sentence, look for others. Discipline your prepositional phrases; make sure you know where they end. Yet the writer intends only the first to be the object of the preposition. Hitler is accusing the Jews of engaging , but not of stating ; he is the one doing the stating. There are two common problems here. More upset than who?

The other problem, which is more common and takes many forms, is the unintended and sometimes comical comparison of unlike elements. Often the trouble starts with a possessive:. You mean to compare appetites, but you've forgotten about your possessive, so you absurdly compare an appetite to a man. Get control of your apostrophes.

Do not use the apostrophe to form plurals. This is a new error, probably a carryover from the common conversational habit of pausing dramatically after although.


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  • Using Primary Sources in Your Writing.

Remember that although is not a synonym for the word however , so you cannot solve the problem in the sentence by putting a period after Europe. A clause beginning with although cannot stand alone as a sentence. This is a strange new error. Finally, two hints: If your word-processing program underlines something and suggests changes, be careful.

When it comes to grammar and syntax, your computer is a moron. Not only does it fail to recognize some gross errors, it also falsely identifies some correct passages as errors. Do not cede control of your writing decisions to your computer. Make the suggested changes only if you are positive that they are correct. If you are having trouble with your writing, try simplifying. Write short sentences and read them aloud to test for clarity. Start with the subject and follow it quickly with an active verb. Limit the number of relative clauses, participial phrases, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.

You will win no prizes for eloquence, but at least you will be clear. Add complexity only when you have learned to handle it. Avoid the common solecism of using feel as a synonym for think, believe, say, state, assert, contend, argue, conclude, or write.


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  6. Concentrate on what your historical actors said and did; leave their feelings to speculative chapters of their biographies. As for your own feelings, keep them out of your papers. If you believe that Lincoln should have acted earlier, then explain, giving cogent historical reasons. This is a clumsy, unnecessary construction.

    This phrase is filler. Get rid of it. Attend carefully to the placement of this limiting word.

    Historical Sources - sources of history

    Note, for example, these three sentences:. The first limits the action to interring as opposed to, say, killing ; the second limits the group interred i. More than likely, you have not earned these words and are implying that you have said more than you actually have. Use them sparingly, only when you are concluding a substantial argument with a significant conclusion. Instead is an adverb, not a conjunction. Note also that the two clauses are now parallel—both contain transitive verbs. These are redundant. If two people share or agree , they are both involved by definition.

    This word means one of a kind. It is an absolute. Something cannot be very unique, more unique, or somewhat unique. To avoid confusion in historical prose, you should stick with the original meaning of incredible : not believable. You probably mean that he gave great speeches. You probably mean that the Japanese attack was unwise or reckless. English is rich with adjectives. Finding the best one forces you to think about what you really mean. As a synonym for subject matter, bone of contention, reservation, or almost anything else vaguely associated with what you are discussing, the word issue has lost its meaning through overuse.

    Beware of the word literally. Literally means actually, factually, exactly, directly, without metaphor.


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    The swamping was figurative, strictly a figure of speech. The adverb literally may also cause you trouble by falsely generalizing the coverage of your verb. Like issue , involve tells the reader too little. Delete it and discuss specifically what Erasmus said or did.

    What are primary sources? Why are they useful?

    Just get directly to the point. Most good writers frown on the use of this word as a verb. Impacted suggests painfully blocked wisdom teeth or feces. Had an impact is better than impacted , but is still awkward because impact implies a collision. Here is another beloved but vapid word. If you believe quite reasonably that the Reformation had many causes, then start evaluating them. Overuse has drained the meaning from meaningful.

    Reading and Writing about Primary Sources

    The adjective interesting is vague, overused, and does not earn its keep. Delete it and explain and analyze his perspective. Your professor will gag on this one. Events take place or happen by definition, so the relative clause is redundant. Furthermore, most good writers do not accept transpire as a synonym for happen. Again, follow the old rule of thumb: Get right to the point, say what happened, and explain its significance. This phrase is awkward and redundant. Replace it with the reason is, or better still, simply delete it and get right to your reason. The phrase is for all intents and purposes , and few good writers use it in formal prose anyway.

    Use center on or center in. Recently, many people have started to use this phrase to mean raises, invites, or brings up the question. Understanding this fallacy is central to your education. The formal Latin term, petitio principii, is too fancy to catch on, so you need to preserve the simple English phrase. If something raises a question, just say so. Everything in the past or relating to the past is historical. Resist the media-driven hype that elevates the ordinary to the historic. The Norman invasion of England in was indeed historic.

    Primary Sources for Historical Research

    Historically , historians have gathered annually for a historical convention; so far, none of the conventions has been historic. Effect as a verb means to bring about or cause to exist effect change. While stresses simultaneity. This is the classic bonehead error. As an adjective, everyday one word means routine. If you wish to say that something happened on every successive day, then you need two words, the adjective every and the noun day. For Kant, exercise and thinking were everyday activities. To allude means to refer to indirectly or to hint at.

    The word you probably want in historical prose is refer , which means to mention or call direct attention to. Novel is not a synonym for book. A novel is a long work of fiction in prose. A historical monograph is not a novel —unless the historian is making everything up.

    This is an appalling new error. If you are making a comparison, you use the conjunction than. The past tense of the verb to lead is led not lead. The opposite of win is lose , not loose. However may not substitute for the coordinating conjunction but. Your religion, ideology, or worldview all have tenets —propositions you hold or believe in.

    Tenants rent from landlords. The second sentence says that some colonists did not want to break with Britain and is clearly true, though you should go on to be more precise. Historians talk a lot about centuries, so you need to know when to hyphenate them. Follow the standard rule: If you combine two words to form a compound adjective, use a hyphen, unless the first word ends in ly.

    The same rule for hyphenating applies to middle-class and middle class —a group that historians like to talk about. Bourgeois is usually an adjective, meaning characteristic of the middle class and its values or habits. Occasionally, bourgeois is a noun, meaning a single member of the middle class. Bourgeoisie is a noun, meaning the middle class collectively. Your professor may ask you to analyze a primary document. Here are some questions you might ask of your document. You will note a common theme—read critically with sensitivity to the context. This list is not a suggested outline for a paper; the wording of the assignment and the nature of the document itself should determine your organization and which of the questions are most relevant.

    Of course, you can ask these same questions of any document you encounter in your research. Your professor may ask you to write a book review, probably of a scholarly historical monograph. Here are some questions you might ask of the book. Remember that a good review is critical, but critical does not necessarily mean negative. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it a suggested outline.

    Your writing tutor sneaks another look at her watch as she reminds you for the third time to clarify your thesis. Your main historical actors are this, it, they, the people, and society, and they are all involved with factors, aspects, impacts, and issues. Writing Center. Writing Resources. Writing a Good History Paper. Additional Navigation About Us. Tutoring Services. Incorrect Punctuation of Two Independent Clauses. Misuse of the Apostrophe. Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers.

    Pronoun Problems. The Dreaded Pet Peeves. Writing Prizes. Faculty Resources. State a clear thesis. Be sure to analyze. See also: Analyzing a Historical Document Be precise. Watch the chronology. Cite sources carefully. Use primary sources. See also: Analyzing a Historical Document Use scholarly secondary sources. See also: Writing a Book Review Avoid abusing your sources. Quote sparingly Avoid quoting a secondary source and then simply rewording or summarizing the quotation, either above or below the quotation. Know your audience Unless instructed otherwise, you should assume that your audience consists of educated, intelligent, nonspecialists.

    Misuse of the passive voice. Abuse of the verb to be. Inappropriate use of first person. Tense inconsistency. Ill-fitted quotation. Free-floating quotation. Clumsy transition. Unnecessary relative clause. Distancing or demeaning quotation marks.

    Bibliographies

    Remarks on Grammar and Syntax Awkward. Unclear antecedent. It was a symbolic act. Faulty parallelism. Consider this sentence: "King Frederick the Great sought to expand Prussia, to rationalize agriculture, and that the state support education. Run-on sentence. Sentence fragment. Confusion of restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. Consider these two versions of the same sentence: 1.

    Confusion about the objects of prepositions. Misuse of the comparative. Comma between subject and verb. The fact that.

    In terms of. Thus and therefore. Misuse of instead. If there is ever any doubt, err on the side of acknowledging your source, or ask your instructor. While most plagiarism is of written material, the same principles apply to anything produced by someone else, such as a painting or a song. They also apply to oral sources. For example, if you take something from a lecture or from an interview or reproduce a picture, you should cite your source.

    As you read and take notes on a source you might later use in a paper, you should write down all the information that you will need for a proper citation. You should be especially careful to indicate if any wording in your notes is a direct quotation. This will save you a lot of effort trying to find the information later on, and more importantly help you to avoid inadvertent plagiarism. See the examples below for the information you will need for various kinds of sources.

    In your writing, if you use any book including a textbook, encyclopedia, or other reference work , article, paper, letter, inscription, Web site, song, work of art, or anything else produced by someone else, whether or not it is published and no matter who the writer or creator is — a professional writer, your friend or relative, your roommate, etc. You must acknowledge the source whether you quote or reproduce it exactly, paraphrase it, or merely use some of its ideas or arguments.

    You are using its ideas if you follow its organizational structure, even if you do not quote or paraphrase it or use any of its content. Some instructors may require you to have a bibliography at the end of your paper. This should consist of a list of all the sources you used, with the proper information about them.

    It is important to note that having a bibliography does not relieve you of the responsibility of citing the use of sources at the particular places in the body of the paper where you used them. If you use endnotes, the bibliography should come at the very end of the paper, after the endnotes. Following the principles given above carefully will prevent you from committing plagiarism.

    You may be surprised by the conclusions. Ask — before you write your paper — which one your instructor wants you to use. The most comprehensive guide is The Chicago Manual of Style , 15th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago,

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