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Research Assignment #2

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In research assignment #1, you located a contemporary news article, wrote a working introductory paragraph for your project, identified an initial geographic focus, and developed a list of search terms. If you have not yet done so, review any comments from Dr. Unangst before proceeding. If your WordPress comments require a meeting, be sure to schedule and attend!

In research assignment #2, you’re going to locate at least one historical primary source created before 1980. Click here for a definition of a primary source and examples of kinds of primary sources.

Step 1. Develop 1-2 date limiters for your primary source search. For example, since your project must address historical origins before 1980, you might simply choose to limit the top end at 1979. Or, you could choose a date range: 1890-1910. If you’re not sure, start with a wide range, and then narrow it down. Add the date range that ultimately worked to the end of your project (see sample research assignment #2).

Step 2. Try multiple combinations of your search terms (research assignment #1- be sure to review comments!) in the databases offered in the searching for primary sources guide to locate at least one primary source within your date range. Analyze the source. Do not simply select the source at the top of the search results, and be sure to try at least two databases.

Write one analytical paragraph (similar to what you did for research assignment #1) that considers the following questions:

  • What kind of primary source is it?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the purpose of the source?
  • What is the historical context in which the source was written and read?
  • How might the author’s gender, race, or socioeconomic class compare to those of the people about whom he or she is writing?
  • What unspoken assumptions does the source contain?

Do NOT answer the above questions in list format. Instead, integrate the answers into a clear analytical narrative of the source. At this point, you have not yet looked at any secondary sources, so the connection to your contemporary news article may not yet be precisely clear. That’s ok. You will start to address those historical connections in research assignment #3. Make sure that you address every question.

Step 3. Cite your primary source using an endnote citation. Depending on the type of source that it is (newspaper article, book, speech) the formatting will be different. If you’re not sure how to cite it, consult the Chicago Style Quick Guide, or better yet see a librarian or Dr. Unangst during office hours. I can help!

Step 4. List at least two historical questions that your primary source generates. See the Writing Historical Questions guide and sample research assignment #2 for tips and examples. Formulate two clear and concise research questions (label them as Question A and Question B) based on your analysis of your contemporary newspaper article, your primary source, and the theme(s) of the course that you identified earlier. Do not be vague by saying something like: “What are the historical roots of my contemporary issue?” But, be sure your questions address the historical roots of your topic.

After completion, you will receive written feedback from Dr. Unangst. You may also be asked to attend a research consultation to address any glaring issues with your primary source or your project.