What is historical research?


Historical research is seeking out the background, and basic qualities of a particular subject. Taking the historical approach means looking at primary documents from the history of the subject, such as letters and artifacts. Historical research also includes the historiography of the subject and typically follows a general step-by-step procedure.

Historical research starts by deciding on a topic, then doing a lot of general background reading on that topic. This gives the researcher a broad information base to start with. During this research, the reader narrows the topic down to something that interests him. In the higher levels of historical research, the end topic is typically one that has not been explored much by other historians.

Gathering information and taking notes is an essential part of historical research, as it is from these notes that the final paper, essay, book or presentation is formed. Biases must be considered and dealt with because every person and source that is not primary has a bias. Often, even primary sources have a bias that cannot be overlooked. Part of understanding bias of secondary sources is by looking at the historiography of the subject, meaning how the subject was studied at the time. Through analyzing these notes and sources, historical research allows the researcher to come to a conclusion about a theory or hypothesis that tries to explain the topic or subject.

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