How do I do my research?
One of the first things you should do is identify one or two secondary books on your topic. A secondary book is a work written by a historian after the event. It will provide details and help you to identify primary source materials. Primary sources are materials created at the time of the event. It is good to identify three to five good secondary sources for your project. Occasionally students will pick a topic that has little written material. Also, look for academic journal articles on your project. You may have access through your school or local library or you can visit a local university library for assistance.
Next you will begin looking at primary source material. What letters, newspapers, diaries, photographs, and such are available? What can you find at your local library, school library, museums, and online in college libraries? The more primary sources you have the better you will do on your project. Your teacher can help guide you in locating materials.
It is important to develop a good system for taking notes as you do your research. Make sure you record where the information or material was found. Also, remember to put the material into your own words or use quotations. Plagiarism is a very serious offense and can cause you to be eliminated for the district, state, or national contest. If you are looking for an effective way to take notes, check out our Guide to Taking Notes.
For more information on conducting research take a look at our Detailed Research Guide.