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Milne Library SUNY Geneseo Subject Guides


* History: What is History Research?

What is historiography?

Historiography is the study of the discipline of history.  In addition to learning about an historical event, historiography demands that you consider how interpretations of the event have changed over time. When writing a historiography, students typically are not using primary sources; instead they are using articles and books written by historians in order to understand how interpretations of history have changed over time.

What Are Primary Sources?

The description of what constitutes a primary source will vary from one discipline to another. This guide is intended to assist mainly those working in the humanities and social sciences (and particularly history); for a discussion of primary sources in the natural sciences this blog entry may be useful.)

Within the humanities and social sciences, “Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format.” (Borrowed from Yale University.)

Examples of Primary Sources

Some history research papers require that the student use primary sources, which are first-person accounts of a person, place, event, or era. They can take many forms, including but not limited to:

Diaries, Memoirs, and Autobiographies
Narratives
Speeches
Documents
Interviews and Oral history transcripts or tapes
Letters
Images and photographs
Audio and video
Newspaper/Magazine Articles (written at the time studied)
Artifacts

Government Information
Maps
Census data

    Primary Sources

    Videos Explaining Primary Sources

    This video from the University of California-San Diego may be helpful in understanding primary sources.