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Reference Resources for History
In the earliest stages of a research project, when you are looking for a possible topic or gethering basic information about a topic you have in mind, some of the best tools to use are reference resources: bibliographies, guides to research for specific subjects, specialized historical or biographical enclyclopedias, and related works. These materials are designed to provide you with an introductory overview of a topic. The best reference works:
- are written by experts in their subjects
- will suggest many possible paper topics to you (or help you narrow down a topic that is too broad)
- provide basic facts, background, and contextual information for a subject
- give you a good idea of the major questions and debates historians have explored in relation to a subject
- may give you a good idea of the major primary sources available for a subject
- will provide a brief but carefully selected bibliography of important secondary works about the subject
In sum, reference resources are very efficient tools to use in the early stages of research paper topic selection and topic refinement; they are practical stepping stones to the next stages of your project. They can save you time and should be consulted as you begin your work.