1) Learn how to form a Research-able Question:
2) Apply Selected Resources:
Use the following resources to begin formulating a Research-able Question. Remember to explore Reference Sources such as specialized encyclopedia articles to get a broad overview of your topic and see the directions in which a very narrow study could go. Your goal is to move beyond common knowledge and go NARROW and DEEP to result in a project that uncovers little known insights supporting a thesis statement that is far from obvious, possibly controversial, but never-the-less skillfully supported by the views of specialized scholars and skillfully collected evidence. As preparation for college, your project will demonstrate how well you are developing a good number of skills (listed at the base of this page.)
- Note: Although Wikipedia is a reference source, but it is “open source,” so anyone can edit its articles, and sometimes mischief-makers or ignorant folks publish misinformation or heavily biased content there. Most teachers and college professors won’t accept your citing it, but it’s okay to “taste” your topic there and use the authoritative sources it references in an article’s bibliography. To save time and develop important research skills, high schoolers are expected to use scholarly resources that are professionally researched and edited and collected into library print collections and databases.
- If you have selected your historical figure, begin in the Gale Biographies in Context (database.) It provides professionally written articles from reference sources, magazines and journals. It also provides carefully reviewed web sites and videos.
- If you have selected a topic of study and want to investigate whom you might focus your project upon, use a different Gale database that’s more related to your topic– possibly Gale’s World History in Context, or Science in Context.
- We also have a wonderful new reference database called Salem Press GREAT EVENTS IN HISTORY to try. (It’s in print in the library, too, which might make it easier to browse.)
- If you are researching fashion, use Salem Press’s Fashion Innovators.
- If you are researching a topic in art or music, use the relevant Oxford database.
- Use the textbook for your course or any print encyclopedia.
- For an overview of your topic, use the World Book or Britannica from our Library Databases page. Just don’t cite these sources in high school or college projects as they are too juvenile and provide only “common knowledge” on your topic.
- When you know the very specific field of study related to your topic, notice that the Gale Databases link provides access to Gale’s DATABASE OF DATABASES. Does your topic of inquiry get support from a very specific database listed there? Try that specific database. Just make sure you are searching for and selecting “reference” articles at the early stage of research because you don’t want to be overwhelmed by detail.
- It will be important to explore VERY DEEPLY a particular event that person lived through that is extremely telling of their struggle, character and abilities, and DETAILS really strengthen your project. Make sure you work with chapters from actual biographies to dig up this kind of detail. History and biography is presented in best detail in BOOKS. Use our library catalog to access books not only in our library, but through inter-library loan from other APS libraries. Go online to the public library catalog to find additional books on your biographee.
- Do a library catalog search (link) using the last name – comma- first name in a SUBJECT search. Many times, print books will be your best resource, especially if your topic is historical. History is best taught in books, and the authors aren’t giving away their life’s work for free on the internet. In a small library like ours, you can also just go to the BIOGRAPHY section and look on the shelves for a call number 92-_ _ _ where the last part is the first three letters of the biographee’s last name. Example: 92-LIN is where to find biographies on Abraham Lincoln.
- Ebsco Host – click “research databases” when it opens and de-select ERIC and K-8 resources before you enter your search terms. Use Boolean Operators and the database’s filters to narrow your sources if your results overwhelm you.
- Once you know the field of study your person contributed to, look for a chapter or book inside the Proquest E-book Central database.
- Using “Advanced Search,” input the name of your person in “quotation marks” and add it to another more specific search term (from a focus question, or using the field of study) when you search the database called Academic OneFile.
- Use the library catalog from Arlington Public Libraries. See if they have specialized databases for your use at their “Research Portal” link.
- J-Stor is a database with resources (including very advanced and detailed journal articles) dating back to the 1700s. (A journal article publishes “new findings” by scholars… cutting edge knowledge, so always pay attention to the date that the resource was originally published.) Use “advanced search” to select the category of journals that match the field of study your figure contributed to.
- Use actual books where an author has collected primary sources for your close examination. Library books are great sources of primary sources such as images and speeches that were collected by the author to add detail and evidence to her work. Do a library catalog search (link) of “all libraries” within Arlington Public Schools and get help from the librarian to obtain an inter-library loan (ILL) if necessary.
- See #6 above. J-Stor might help you find a primary source written by the person you are studying or at the time that your person lived.
- Wikipedia articles on your topic sometimes link primary sources. Those are the BEST AND MOST CREDIBLE information that Wikipedia might provide a scholar; be skeptical of other information in Wikipedia. (Don’t cite Wikipedia in your research papers.)
- Work inside the databases to efficiently find primary sources.
- Gale’s World History in Context database is helpful for understanding the context in which your historical figure lived. It links lots of primary sources when you research about the time period (instead of the person.)
- Fordham University’s Internet History Sourcebooks – link.
- Link to H-B Library’s Primary Sources Portal. Don’t miss the advice on “finding primary sources” if there might be a Historical Society dedicated to your topic.
- If your person may have published an actual book, look for them as an author in “Google Books.” Get help from the librarian to better understand this source.