Types of Primary Documents
Political cartoons (various subjects)
Propaganda of World War I (particularly posters)
Magazine advertising (before 1919; you can find bound copies at the NYPL)
Music and song (before 1919; perhaps a national anthem)
Statues and monuments commenting on history (ex.—Otto Von Bismarck in Berlin)
Structures, buildings, or collections of them (the Eiffel Tower; the Flatiron Building;
the Titanic; houses by Frank Lloyd Wright, etc.)
Artwork at the Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, or other institution (to
1919—grouped around a particular artist or theme)
Once you have a preliminary idea for research, you will follow a multi-step path that should include the following:
Defining your topic. Almost all of you will need to narrow the initial scope of your work. Otherwise, your final paper will contain a multitude of facts and dates but little sustained intellectual exploration. For example, “socialism” in its entirety is unwieldy. However, you may want to look at a single novel exploring it, such as Looking Backward, or a particular historical episode, like the Paris Commune. You may be interested in an entire wing of the Metropolitan Museum, but you cannot hope to say something substantive about 100 different paintings. However, you may choose just two and show how they exhibit the growth of nationalism or the lure of romanticism. If your inclination is toward military matters, you may be drawn to the development of the machine gun. But after you begin research you may decide that you wish to show its influence in just a few months of 1914 and its role in transforming what was expected to be a quick war into a bloody stalemate that dragged on for over four years.
Finding Sources. You will need to identify and evaluate a range of sources. Begin by visiting an area library and consulting with librarians in order to find the most recent and thoughtful commentary on your topic. Using the web is fine, even de rigueur these days, but all students must employ at least four secondary sources (usually books and articles) that have been through a traditional “gatekeeper.”
Closely reading and taking notes on the sources you find. I will collect these notes. Remember that note-taking is not “cutting and pasting.” It is summarizing or interpreting a source using your own words. You will write most of your paper by consulting your extensive notes, and only occasionally looking back to a book or other source directly.
Developing a thesis. Alas, we are not in fifth grade anymore. Your final paper will not be a collection of interesting data or a mere summation of what you have found in your research. You will have to create an argument and, through analysis and narrative, show it to be a legitimate interpretation of the history relevant to your topic.
Crediting sources. You will also cite and list your sources in endnotes and a bibliography, using the MLA style.
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