Skip to Main Content

HIST 495: Historiography and Research Writing

This course guide was created to accompany a library-led instruction session for HIST 495 covering research methods and library services available for students.

Starting your Research

Planning a few things now can help save a lot of time later. As you're getting started, it can be helpful to stop and take a brief inventory like the following:

  • What types of information are most likely to fit your purpose or project? (Articles, websites, patents, standards, etc.)
  • How much information do you need? (Does your assignment have a minimum? Do you need to be comprehensive?)
  • Do you know enough about your topic to be able to tell what's useful and what's not? (If not, sources like Wikipedia can get you up to speed!)
  • Where are you going to store the documents you are using as references? (Have a plan!)
  • How are you going to store and manage the citations for your paper? (Try a citation manager!)

Using Wikipedia for Background Information

You don't want to cite Wikipedia directly in your research papers, but you can use the online Encyclopedia to help you learn more about your topic and locate keywords for use in your research! Here are a few ways you can use Wikipedia to help your research as you are starting out:

  • Finding keywords: You can use Wikipedia to learn vocabulary or technical terms for an unfamiliar topic. Wikipedia is handy for finding dates and timelines for historical events, or for outlining aspects of a topic you had not yet considered.
  • Learning more: Wikipedia can also help you understand how your research question fits into a broader topic. Look for related pages linked within an article and explore other suggestions that appear in your initial search to explore your topic in more depth. 
  • Locating sources: Most articles have a list of linked references and notes that you can use to verify Wikipedia’s content. Once you’ve found adequate background information on your topic from Wikipedia, you can explore other scholarly and direct sources to get a more complete picture of your topic.

This content was adapted from "LIB 160: Information Literacy" by the Iowa State University Library Instruction Services.

Citation Management Tools

Keeping track of your sources is an important part of the research process. There are some tools available that can help you keep track of and organize your sources, even outputting citations for you when you're ready to cite them in your final paper! A few guides to help you navigate recommended citation management tools are provided below:

Profile Photo
Becca Yowler