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HIST 2321 SO Elkins: Home

This guide has been specially designed to assist you in your research for your HIST 2321 assignments. The "Book Resources" and "Database Resources" tabs will guide you to finding specific types of sources that you can list in your annotated bibliography

Getting Started

What should I look for in my assignment?

  • Keywords or verbs. Words like summarize, compare, analyze, or argue direct you to think about your topic in a certain way.
  • Technical details which indicate format rules or guidelines like font, length, spacing, and citation style.
  • Project logistics will tell you about the final product, whether it is supposed to be a speech, written paper, or other presentation.
  • Number and type of sources such as peer-reviewed, scholarly, primary or secondary.
  • Due dates for drafts and final paper/presentation. Plan ahead for time in the library and writing center.
  • Check out Understanding Assignments from the Writing Center at UNC Chapel Hill for more information.

Where do I find topic ideas?

Why do I need background information?

  • To become familiar with the issues, debates, and historical context of your topic.
  • To learn about names, dates, and places relevant to your topic.
  • Preliminary research will also help you become more familiar with the terminology used to discuss your topic, which will be of use in identifying keywords to use when searching for more in-depth research later on.

Primary and Secondary Sources

What are primary sources?

Primary sources:

  • provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation without evaluation or interpretation.  
  • contain the information from which a secondary or tertiary source is derived and are written by someone directly involved in the historical event or primary research. 
  • include original documents such as diaries, speeches, letters, audio transcripts, emails, autobiographies, and interviews
  • include creative works such as photographs, novels, poetry, music, and artworks 

How do I find a Primary Source? 

  • A primary source may be contained in a small piece of a larger secondary source.  For example, a secondary source analyzing the Civil War may also include letters written by soldiers (primary source).
  • Sometimes primary sources are scanned and the digital copies are included on historical websites.
  • Sometimes several individual's letters or diaries are published together as a collection.

Source: University of Maryland Libraries

What about secondary sources?

Secondary Sources:

  • provide analysis and interpretation of the primary source.
  • are one or more steps removed from the original event. 
  • may have pictures, quotations, or graphics from the original source.
  • include textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, and commentaries.

Examples of Secondary Sources:

  • your history textbook
  • a biography of Benjamin Franklin or any other famous American
  • a book which explains the effects of the Revolutionary War
  • an article which includes analysis of a historical event


Source: Princeton University 

SO Assistant Director of Library Services