Library Research Guide
Trying to place your topic within the topic of how other historians have written about it?
Look for books or journal articles written for students or a researcher exploring new content and needing an overview of the existing scholarship. These works discuss themes, changes in commonly held beliefs, and seminal (commonly referenced) works.
Locate historiographies in Search It in a couple of ways:
1. Locate titles by searching for:
2. Search for your topic and the term: historiography. You may need to broaden your topic to a time period or concept, like: United States women historiography
Below are a sample of titles relevant to Revolutionary America.
To locate scholarly journal articles with historiographies, add the term historiography to your search.
For example: "Native American" AND revolution AND historiography
Book reviews help gauge how other historians receive a new book. Typically, a book review will highlight the contributions to existing scholarship and identify any "bad history." Read several reviews of a book - all of the historians may not agree on the value of the new work.
Locate book reviews in most databases by limiting your search results to Reviews.
Need facts about a historical figure? These academic and scholarly biographies also include references to additional sources of information.
Language is not set in stone. Flexibility with search terms is the key when you are researching Revolutionary America.
While historians and time may have settled on a particular spelling of a family name, such as Lovelace, the spelling in contemporaneous documents like wills, letters, and the census can vary wildly. Keep an eye out for alternative spellings like: Lovelass or Loveless. Use context like location (state, town) or occupation (lawyer, farmer) to help determine if you are talking about the right person or family.
Experiment with your focus on location. Researchers may broadly refer to America or the Colonies. They may also only discuss a specific colony/state, a town, or region, or even a geographical feature. If you are researching something in Frederick, MD, you may find yourself looking at sources that variously describe:
The names for events, peoples, and locations change over time and can vary depending upon whose side you were on.
Example 1: a battle is rarely named the day it was fought. When searching for newspaper articles or mentions in diaries, look for the location, date, or officers who fought with distinction.
Example 2: the Revolutionary War, the War of Independence, the War for Independence are all names for the same war. However, during the war, it was more often referred to as the war, the American war, or the revolution.
These databases are your best starting points for scholarly journal articles.
Each has a different strength; develop the habit of searching all three to ensure you are covering both current and older journal articles.
Maps can serve as both primary sources (evidence of geography, communities, politics, and battles) and secondary sources (allowing you to visually place your events/people/themes in historical context). Some good map sources related to the American Revolution include:
Maps of United States--Early America 1400-1800
Historical Maps--Digital History
These materials include significant primary source materials from governments and military officers related to the American Revolution.
K-State Libraries subscribes to databases that can be browsed and searched for primary source materials.
These databases are your best bets for learning what people in the American Colonies read and what they wrote about in their journals and letters. (The Euro-American experience is heavily represented, but some materials offer the Native American and African American perspectives.)
The Times of London offers insight into how the Revolutionary War was reported to the British. Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) includes some American sources, but skews towards British publications.
Whether British or Colonists, these databases include documents revealing how governments handled the Revolutionary War. The Congressional Serial Set starts in 1789, but includes materials about pensions, land claims, and other fiscal issues arising from the war.
While featuring the Native American experience, most of the documents related to the American Revolution are about, rather than written or recorded by Native Americans.
While the women's experience is represented in other databases, these databases feature sources written by women.
These collections are freely available for your research.