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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $57.99

352 pp.
5.5" x 8.25"


Copyright Year:

Imprint: OUP US

The Information-Literate Historian

A Guide to Research for History Students, Third Edition

Jenny L. Presnell

The Information-Literate Historian is the only book specifically designed to teach today's history students how to successfully select and use sources-primary, secondary, and electronic-to carry out and present their research. Expanded and updated, the third edition is an indispensable reference for historians, students, and other readers doing history research.

Readership : Undergraduate students in historical methods courses, research/writing intensive history, or history survey courses.



    "The Information-Literate Historian is one of the most innovative guides to exploring traditional and non-traditional, electronic resources I've seen. Rather than make alterative and electronic sources an add-on, this book makes them the core of the exploration. At the same time, the author encourages students to read material fully and to use it, as she says, artfully. Guiding students to use parts of books or articles-and to mine sources-is hard to do, but Presnell excels at it."
    --Thomas Humphrey, Cleveland State University

  • "My students love this book. The author provides relevant, accessible, well-organized chapters on topics not covered effectively by most other research guides out there."
    --Christina M. Jimenez, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Introduction: What It Means To Be a Historian
Basic Research
1. Historians and the Research Process: Getting Started
How Scholarly Information Is Communicated
What Historians Do and How They Do It
How to Think Historically
Beginning Your Research
- Where Do Viable and Interesting Topics Come From?
- Developing a Question and Formulating an Argument
- The Blueprint: Concept Maps, Storyboarding, and Outlines
- Taking Notes
- Creating Bibliographies and Documenting Sources
The Changing Nature of Historical Research and What Remains the Same
2. Reference Resources
What Are Reference Resources and When Are They Useful?
How to Find Reference Resources
Types of Reference Resources
- Encyclopedias
- Bibliographies
- Multivolume General Histories
- Bibliographical Resources
- Chronologies
- Dictionaries, Etymologies, and Word Origins
- Book Reviews
- Directories
Using the Internet as a Reference Resource
Case Study: Using Reference Resources to Understand Herodotus
3. Finding Monographs and Using Catalogs
What Is a Book?: The Changing Nature of Monographs
When Are Books the Right Choice for Information?
How to Use a Book Artfully
Finding Monographs and Using Catalogs
Navigating a Library Portal/Finding the Catalog
Strategic Searching: Keyword vs. Subject Searching
- Keyword Searching
- Subject Searching
Alternative Searching: Faceted Catalogs and Limiting
How to Read an Online Catalog Record
Finding Monographs and Using Catalogs Outside of Your School
- Sources of Catalogs
Where Else Can I Find Monographs?
Case Study: Finding and Using Monographs: The Spread of Islam in Western Africa
4. Finding Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers: Using Indexes
What are Periodicals (or Journals, Magazines, Newspapers)?
Journals vs. Magazines
Commentary Periodicals
The Role of Newspapers in Secondary Historical Research
Journal Articles: The Core of Secondary
Periodical Research
How to Read a Journal Article
How to Find Articles: Designing a Search and Using an Index
Using an Online Database: Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life
- Entering a Keyword Search in Historical Abstracts
- What You Will Get: Looking at Your Results
- Selecting Other Indexes
E-Journals and Electronic Collections of Journals
Case Study: Searching for Periodical Articles: Canton Trade System
Selected Historical Indexes
- Selected Periodical Indexes of Use to Historians
5. Evaluating Your Sources
Why Evaluate Your Sources?
Basic Evaluation Criteria
Perspective and Bias: Historians and Interpretation
Scholarship or Propaganda?
Case Study: Evaluating Sources: Holocaust Historians
6. The Thrill of Discovery: Primary Sources
Nature and Categories of Primary Sources
Planning Your Project with Primary Sources
Locating Primary Sources
Digitizing and Electronic Access to Primary Sources
Published Sources for Mass Consumption
- Books as Primary Sources
- Magazines and Journals as Primary Sources
- Newspapers as Primary Sources
Unpublished Sources and Manuscripts
- Catalogs, Bibliographies, Directories, and Indexes for Manuscripts
Directories to Archive Repositories
Documents from Governments and Other Official Bodies
- Indexes, Full Text Sources, and Bibliographies for Government / Guides to Government Publications
Genealogy and Public Records
- Guides for Genealogy and Public Records
Business Records
- Directories
Oral History
- Guide to Oral History Repositories
Material Culture: Buildings, Artifacts, and Objects
History before 1400: Ancient and Medieval Cultures and Those with Substantial Oral and Material Culture Traditions
- Ancient History
- Medieval European History
- Indigenous Peoples, Former Colonial Nations, and African American History
Using Bibliographies to Locate Primary Sources
- Bibliographies Containing References to Primary Sources
Case Study: Finding Primary Sources: Tobacco through the Ages
For Further Reading
Bibliography of Advances Indexes to Published Primary Sources
7. History and the Internet
The Internet and Research
When Is the Internet Appropriate for Historical Research?
Using the Internet: The Basics
- How Do I Access Websites on the Internet?
- Search Directories
- Search Engines
- Meta-Search Engines
- What Am I Missing? The Deep Web or Invisible Web
Special Search Techniques: Finding Primary Sources on the Internet
- Searching for Primary Sources
Historians Communicating: Using Listserves and Blogs for Information
Evaluation of Websites
- General Websites
- Evaluating Sites Concerned with Primary Sources
Case Study: Using the Internet: Japanese Americans and the Internment Camps
For Further Reading
Advanced Research Techniques for Primary Sources
8. Digital History NEW
What Digital History Is and Is Not
Approaches to Digital History
How to Perform Simple Digital Textual Analysis
Digital Textual Analysis Tools
Examples of Digital History Projects
Beginning Your Own Digital History Projects
For Further Reading
9. Maps: From Simple to Geographic Information Systems
Maps as Representations of Our World
A Short History of Maps and Cartography
Maps for Navigation and Commercial Use
Maps as Political Tools
Maps as Propaganda
Maps Marking Territory
Maps in War
Components of Modern Maps
Finding Maps
- Categories of Historical Maps
- Map Resources
- Gazetteers
How to Read a Map
- Questions to Ask When Reading a Map
Planning Your Own Map: Simple to Complex
For Further Reading
- History of Maps and Cartography
- Maps and General Geography Texts
- Geographic Information Systems
10. Beyond the Written Word: Finding, Evaluation, and Using Images, Motion Pictures, and Audio
The Role of Media in Historical Research: Images Throughout History
- Photography: Real Life Captured?
- Art as Visual Media: Painting and Drawing
- Moving Images: Fact and Fiction: Newsreels, Documentaries, Motion Pictures, and Television Programs
Searching for Visual Media
- Collections of Historic Images
- Search Engines and Meta-Search Engines for Images and Indexes to Image Collections
Images on the Internet: Some Cautions
- Digital Video: Using Moving Images
- Searching on the Web
- Audio, Music, and Speech Resources
- Searching for Audio Materials
For Further Reading
11. Statistics: Quantifying History
A Society of Statistics
A Short History of the Evolution of Statistical Collection and Analysis: What Can You Expect to Find?
Categorizing Statistics: How They Are Collected and Organized
- Demographics / Vital Statistics / Census Data
- Economic Statistics
- Social Statistics
- Public Opinion and Consumer Preferences
Gleaning Statistics from Primary Sources
Finding Statistics
- How to Think About the Sources
- Search Strategies
Evaluating Statistics: Common Problems with Data Collection and Results
- Questions to Evaluate Data
- Data Problems: Signs that Something is Wrong
Data Sets: Doing Your Own Thing
Selected Resources
- Understanding Statistics Collections of General Statistics/Statistical Abstracts
- Almanacs and Yearbooks
- Economic, Financial, and Commercial Statistics
- General Demographics, Social Characteristics
- Census
- Polls / Public Opinion
- Market Research
- Major Social Surveys
- Bibliographies and Indexes for Statistics
- Finding and Using Datasets
For Further Reading
Case Study: Contextualizing Statistics
Presenting Your Research
12. Presenting Your Research: Traditional Research Paper, Presentation, Poster, or Website?
Creating a Research Paper
- Writing Style
- Formulating an Argument
- Paper Construction
- Ebb and Flow of Paragraphs
- Public Presenting
Oral, Slide, and Poster Presentation
- Creating a Poster
Creating Websites for Historical Research
- Historical and Scholarly Websites
Website Design: How to Begin
- Preplanning: The Major Considerations
- Navigation
- What Every Good Website Must Have
- Writing Text for the Web
- Common Mistakes to Avoid on Websites
Case Study: A Student Paper: "Americans and the Bomb"
For Further Reading
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C

Student Study Guide:
- Study resources
E-Book ISBN 9780190851507

Jenny L. Presnell is Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at Miami University (OH). She purchases materials and manages the collections for the subject areas of History, Political Science, American Studies, Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Middle East, Islamic and Jewish Studies. She also teaches "information literacy" courses at Miami.

Writing History - William Kelleher Storey and Mairi Cowan
Making Sense - Margot Northey

Special Features

  • Covers the latest in history research methods with an emphasis on online research and electronic databases.
  • Comprehensive coverage of all aspects of historical research, including evaluating sources, using maps and images in research, working with statistics, and presenting research.
  • Case studies explore how research is found and used to give students a sense of the real-world implications of historical research.
New to this Edition
  • New chapter on digital history covers what it is, approaches to it, and how to start a digital history project. (Ch. 8)
  • Two new appendices covering citation in Chicago style and the standards of the Information Literacy Guidelines and Competencies for Undergraduate History Students (American Library Association).
  • New coverage of the role of librarians, the history of "fake news" and how to identify it, presenting research, and alternative presentation software.
  • Updated information on electronic resources, including Hathi Trust and other large online catalogues, WorldCat, library catalogues, and more.
  • Revised coverage of key topics, such as note taking and paper organization; citation management software Zotero; maps and Geographic Information Systems; and the interpretation and evaluation of images.
  • Expanded coverage of how to read a journal article, primary sources from cultures that have strong material and oral traditions, and records from colonial powers.