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HIST 2125: Premodern Cities

Historical Research Process

Historical Research often involves these steps

  1. Identify a topic or research question
  2. Conduct background research on the topic or question
  3. Refine or narrow research topic or question based on background research
  4. Identify primary and secondary sources
  5. Evaluate the sources for relevancy, authenticity, and accuracy. 
  6. Analyze sources and form an argument based on information gathered 

It should be noted that the research process is rarely linear. Many of these steps may occur multiple times throughout the research process. This is normal. 


(Berg & Lune, 2012, 311 and

Types of Sources

Not sure how to tell the difference between primary and secondary sources? The simple definition is that primary sources provide direct, eyewitness evidence of an event, while secondary sources provide a summary, analysis, or interpretation of events or someone's else's research. Most scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles and books written by scholars will be considered secondary sources, while most statistical data and news reporting from the time period will be considered primary sources. Here are some examples of what are considered primary and secondary sources.


Primary Sources Secondary Sources
Diaries, personal journals, and letters Histories, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and bibliographies
Factual newspaper and magazine articles written at the time Newspaper and magazine articles that interpret an event
Government records, announcements, and publications Criticisms, commentaries, and editorials
Speeches, radio broadcasts, and video recordings from that time Scholarly journal articles (other than original research)
Interviews with and autobiographies by people who lived during that time/witnessed that event Books that provide commentary or context on a topic

Original research articles



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