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Intro to Guide

This subject guide will help you:

  • Find background & reference sources
  • Find books using the library catalog
  • Find journal articles using databases
  • Distinguish between primary and secondary sources

What is Historiography?

Historiography is the study of historical writing/research, and by extension the writing concerning that historical research. Basically, it’s the study of what other historians have written and the interpretations they came up with.

When writing a historiography paper, you’re typically using secondary sources (the books, book chapters, and articles written by historians) to see how interpretations of your research topic have changed over time.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

In the scope of historical research, primary sources are the evidence left behind by individuals, cultures, and societies. The interpretation of this evidence forms the basis of historical research, offering a window into the past through which historians can examine an event, place, period of time, or other research area through the eyes of those who experienced it firsthand.

Primary sources originate from the time period under investigation, but it can also include autobiographies, memoirs, audio recordings, and other firsthand accounts recorded after-the-fact.

Examples of primary sources:

  • Diaries & Journals
  • Letters
  • Newspapers
  • News Broadcasts
  • Government Documents
  • Business / Organization Documents
  • Maps & City Plans
  • Photographs & Images
  • Literary Texts (written during the time studied)
  • Memoirs & Autobiographes

Secondary sources are the interpretations of a topic made by other historians that draw upon primary sources as well as other secondary sources.

Examples: books, book chapters, journal articles, and your own research paper!

Research & Writing Guides