How to conduct historical research?

Jan 2018
15
......
#1
I am asked to write a paper on some historical issue....the problem is that I don't know how to start this and what approach to follow (critical, analytical, intellectual....). I am really confused!
Please explain the needed procedures to fulfill this task and explain to me the difference between these approaches (critical, analytical, intellectual...) and how to use them?
If there are any other kinds of approaches plz share them with me.
THNX in advance.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,384
Dispargum
#2
Research Guides: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Academic Writing Style

What level of academia are you in? I'm guessing either high school or college.

I never paid much attention to methodology of approach. I assess history and write about it they way I see other people doing it. I read a lot of books and I saw certain patterns of thought emerging without necessarily being aware of those patterns of thought or methodologies. Then I wrote the same way as the writers I was reading - aware that certain processes work better in some situations than in others, but I can't name the different methodologies that I use.

I'm guessing a critical approach assumes that a mistake was made so your paper examines that mistake and considers alternative decisions and actions that might have resulted in a better outcome.

An analytical approach takes the big problem of your topic and breaks it down into a bunch of little problems then examines the little problems one at a time. You might start by asking the six basic questions - Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How? Who did it? What did they do? Where did they do it? etc. You'll want to tie it all together again by showing how these different factors interacted with each other. For instance, your person may have acted that way because of the time and place they were in but may have acted differently in a different time and place.
 
Jan 2018
15
......
#3
Research Guides: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Academic Writing Style

What level of academia are you in? I'm guessing either high school or college.

I never paid much attention to methodology of approach. I assess history and write about it they way I see other people doing it. I read a lot of books and I saw certain patterns of thought emerging without necessarily being aware of those patterns of thought or methodologies. Then I wrote the same way as the writers I was reading - aware that certain processes work better in some situations than in others, but I can't name the different methodologies that I use.

I'm guessing a critical approach assumes that a mistake was made so your paper examines that mistake and considers alternative decisions and actions that might have resulted in a better outcome.

An analytical approach takes the big problem of your topic and breaks it down into a bunch of little problems then examines the little problems one at a time. You might start by asking the six basic questions - Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How? Who did it? What did they do? Where did they do it? etc. You'll want to tie it all together again by showing how these different factors interacted with each other. For instance, your person may have acted that way because of the time and place they were in but may have acted differently in a different time and place.
Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
 
Feb 2017
132
Pacific Ocean
#4
I never paid much attention to methodology of approach. I assess history and write about it they way I see other people doing it. I read a lot of books and I saw certain patterns of thought emerging without necessarily being aware of those patterns of thought or methodologies. Then I wrote the same way as the writers I was reading - aware that certain processes work better in some situations than in others, but I can't name the different methodologies that I use.
This seems to be the best approach. There's also this small guide published by Harvard about how to write a history paper.
A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,057
#5
When doing historical research a big question to ask is "how do your sources 0 what they know". I have seen all too often myth presented as fact, and an almosr universally accepted belief turn out false. Even very common beliefs often turn out not to be true upon examination.

For example, when I was in school it was taught as a fact in our history books that medieval Europeans believed the Earth was flat. This was not only false, but even a cursory review of medieval texts like Bede's The Reckoning of Time would have shown it to be be completely false, so much so that one wonders how such a totally false belief come to be so widely accepted. The myth that medieval knights armor was so heavy they had to be loaded onto their horse with a crane is another common myth. When reading such claims about a 450 ft ship, ask yourself what was the source of those claims? Was it in texts written just a few dozen years after Zheng He's voyages, or is it found only in text written more than 150 years after the events?
 
Likes: bboomer
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#6
@Bart Dale

Yup. The 'one book expert' approach used whenI was in high school. English history was bad enough, but the book on Australian history was quite ghastly..
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#7
@Bart Dale

Yup. The 'one book expert' approach used whenI was in high school. English history was bad enough, but the book on Australian history was quite ghastly..
Addendum;

Perhaps a lesson for the serious scholar; read as widely as you can about and around your topic. It is soften useful to look at a topic in relation to surrounding events.
 
Jan 2019
194
Montreal, QC
#8
I'm a second year Honours in History student, so I find myself writing essays very frequently. So frequently, in fact, that I've come to truly enjoy writing them as much as I enjoy researching for them. I'm writing this advice to you from in-between piles of various monographs on the Restoration court. I'll keep it short and sweet, as I have the proclivity to ramble.

  • 1. Break down your topic. This is best done by hand, I find. I'd write down my topic in one colour, and then write down my various thoughts on it in a different colour. Seeing this will help you to compartmentalise your task, and will eventually create a map for you to follow.
  • 2. Form a research question. Now that you've thought a bit about your topic, you can create your research question. Think of it as a guide as to where you want to go. For my current paper on the Restoration, after I had fleshed out all of my ideas by hand, I eventually came to the question how did the nature of Charles II's court in the first decade of his rule sway public and political opinion on the restored monarchy? You shouldn't have the answer until you've completed all your research. No point in answering a question you already fully know about.
  • 3. Consider the parts. Consider the parts of the topic that you previously broke down. For example, the sub-topics that I had for my project were hedonism, finances, Catholicism, and French influences. Now that I have those four main ideas, I now have a good idea of where to look for resources.
  • 4. Find sources. I try to find two books and two articles per idea. This way, you can fill up on information. It will definitely show in your writing. Having a dearth of resources is glaringly obvious.
  • 5. Mark up your resources! This works only if you know what you want to get out of the book. Scan the table of contents, and then the index, so that you can find the pertinent information. Most likely, you won't need to read the entire book cover-to-cover.
  • 6. Note-taking. I take my notes after I've read the text. I go back through it and copy the quotes that I underlined into a Word document (with proper citations, of course) and record my notes underneath those quotes. That way, I can access what the historian said and what I thought about it with ease. It also makes things much easier when you're actually writing your essay later on.
This may be rather unique to me, as this is how my brain functions. When I apply this system, I can finish a 20 paged essay in less than a week and still receive an A+ on it. I'll attach screenshots of what my current research document looks like. Hopefully you can look at it and see if it helps you at all.

1549414107895.png

This is part of my agenda. I assign myself so many sources a day to read through and record, so that I stay on top of things. By skeleton outline, I mean just the bare-bones. I write down the most important stuff, and then I assign quotes later on. I have the same method for essay writing. I'll write the bulk of the essay - the introduction, different parts of the body paragraphs, other such things - but leave out the quotes, which by now, I have printed out and colour coded. When I return to the essay, all I have to do is to put the quotes in, contextualise them, and cite them, and I'm good to go. An essay isn't a 100-metre dash, but a marathon. Here's how my "Quotes & Notes" appear:

1549414293840.png

Again, I know this is quite a quirky way to arrange my notes and to position myself, but it is very effective. If you want help, don't hesitate to reach out to me.

-DoY
 
Jan 2019
3
USA
#9
Writing such papers always was a nightmare for me. These days affordable writing services for students exist. On CheapWritingHelp they charge from ten bucks for page and when I was as student we had to do everything ourselves which sometimes was amazingly tough...
 
Jan 2019
194
Montreal, QC
#10
Writing such papers always was a nightmare for me. These days affordable writing services for students exist. On CheapWritingHelp they charge from ten bucks for page and when I was as student we had to do everything ourselves which sometimes was amazingly tough...
I couldn't imagine be so pathetic as to pay thousands of dollars to go to school, and then ask a stranger to write my essays for me.