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Research

Researching for History Day

Just as important as having a good topic, research is a necessary part of New York State History Day. It will be quite difficult to create an engaging performance, exhibit, documentary, web site or paper without knowing quite a bit about your topic.

Research can be difficult, especially to students who are trying it for the first time. These links provide you with places you can research, instructions on how to do it well, and even a few suggestions on finding quality sources.

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PLACES TO RESEARCH

NATIONAL ARCHIVES - NORTHEAST REGION

The National Archives – Northeast Region in New York City has put together a guide for History Day research.

Historical Societies, Museums and Historic Sites

American Irish Historical Society

American Museum of the Moving Image

Bayside Historical Society

Brooklyn Historical Society

Brookside Museum and Saratoga County Historic Association

Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society

The Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society – Luther Research Center and Archives

Chemung Valley History Museum

Columbia County Historical Society

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum; Study Center and Archives

Cooper-Union Library Archives

Corning Museum of Glass

Franklin County Historical Society

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library

Genesee Valley Museum and Country Village

Geneva Historical Society

George Eastman House – Richard and Rony Menschel Library

Goshen Public Library and Historical Society

Greene County Historical Society

Historic Hudson Valley

Historic Huguenot Street

Hudson River Maritime Museum

Huntington Historical Society

Jewish Museum of New York

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Museum of the City of New York

Museum Village in Monroe

National Baseball Hall of Fame Library

New Castle Historical Society

New-York Historical Society Library

New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center

New York State Museum

New York Transit Museum

Onondaga Historical Society

Ontario County Historical Society

Oyster Bay Historical Society

The Queens Historical Society

Rensselaer County Historical Society

Rye Historical Society – Knapp House Library and Archives

Schoharie County Historical Society – Old Stone Fort Library

Shelter Island Historical Society Archives

Skyscraper Museum

Slate Valley Museum

Smithtown Historical Society

South Street Seaport Museum

Strong Museum

Susan B. Anthony House

Westchester County Historical Society

White Plains Public Library

Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society Research Facilities

Yorktown Museum

RESEARCHING FOR NYHD

TAKING NOTES

You need to decide on a way to arrange and record your information, because you must keep track of all of your sources. Getting organized is very important and will make your project much easier. New York History Day staff have developed two research organizers that will allow you to take notes and record all your sources. As you use them to collect source information and take notes, you will want to keep them organized in a three-ring binder.
Use this Source Organizer to keep track of your sources!
Use this Notes Organizer to take your notes!

THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

So you have a focused topic, but now what? Now it is time to ask questions. For example: If you decide that you want to research Johnathon Myrick Daniels, an episcopal seminary student who was murdered in August 3, 1965, in Hanyeville, Alabama while working for voting rights, you need to generate some questions.

 

Use the 5 Ws and an H to start things off.

• Who was Daniels? Easy enough right?

• Where was he born?

• Why did he enter the priesthood? Why was he working for voting rights?

• Who assasinated him?

• How did he die?

• What did he accomplish before his death?

• Why should we remember him?

 

Start your research organizer with these questions, or break the sheet into cells and have one question for each section of the paper. Find a way to quickly an easily organize your information so it is easy to get back to.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

An annotated bibliograhy is like any other bibliography. You list all the sources you used in a specific format, either MLA or Turabian. However, and annotated bibliography contains one more thing: a brief sentence or two for each source that tells the reader how and why they were useful. If you use the Research Organizers we’ve provided above, you will have all of that information in one place! All you have to do is type away!

RESEARCHING AND THE INTERNET

USE IT, DON’T ABUSE IT

Hey, we all know that the internet makes finding information super easy. So why is it that your New York History Day staff members have such a hard time with bibliographies comprised entirely of internet research? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

One of the purposes of National History Day is to get you into libraries, museums, and archives so you can actually get your hands on some history! Internet files can never replace the joy of, say, holding a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to Aaron Burr regarding their infamous duel. (However, I must say that the NYSHA Research Library has a fabulous online exhibit with photos of these letters). Nonetheless, learning how to use research libraries and archives is an important skill that you should master by time you’re done with History Day. So start now; it’s not that hard and I guarantee it is a lot of fun!

History Day judges want to see that you used a wide array of source material. Maybe she shouldn’t, but a judge at New York City History Day who sees that a student found all their Ellis Island research on “www.ellisislandrules.com” is going to wonder why he or she didn’t make a trip there. (Not that ANY of our NYC students would ever do any such thing!) My point is this, and its pretty simple: That part of the evaluation form that says “shows wide research” can be roughly translated to: “Student got off his tushy and accessed source material from more places than just the internet.” (This is all relative, my friends. If you don’t happen to live near Ellis Island and you just don’t have the funds for a trip to NYC, the judges won’t hold it against you. But make sure you tell them about the research you did without the internet.) Nonetheless, I think you get my point. Whether it is true or not, adults equate all-internet bibliographies with a lack of motivation and (heaven forbid!) a little bit of laziness. Don’t be that guy or gal! Get out of the house and investigate.

CHOOSE WISELY, MY FRIENDS

Ok, another big beef for the New York History Day staff is when Wikipedia entries show up on bibliographies. Wikipedia can be a great place to learn more about your topic, and it can provide leads for in-depth research, but it shouldn’t be considered a top source. Therefore, it shouldn’t be on your bibliography.
Visit sites with a national or international reputation for quality information. You know that if you visit, say, the National Archives online at www.archives.gov, you are most likely going to get legitimate information. Other good sources include the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, state-run places like the New York State Museum.
Do some fact checking. If you find some exciting information on a questionable site, do some fact checking by verifying it using one or more additional sources.
Determine the source of the site. This one’s easy. If you can’t figure out who created the site, don’t use it!
Ask, “What is the motive of the web site sponsor?” Is the purpose of the site to inform, like the Library of Congress does? Does the sponsor use the site to advocate a point of view, like the National Rifle Association or the National Organization for Women do? Does the site exist primarily to sell something? Is it place for people to express their individual opinions, like bloggers do? Although you can find quality information on sites with all of these motives, you should primarily look for sites that try to inform without an agenda or a bias.

Ask, “How scholarly is the website?” How can you tell? Use the following criteria:A scholarly web site will:- Refer to known experts on the topic/field and quote or paraphrase their work.- Share alternate viewpoints.- Encourage debate, discussion, and criticism.- Feature quality primary and secondary resources.An unscholarly web site may: – Present only one way (the “right” way) of thinking. – Use attacks and ridicule against opposing viewpoints. – Contain very few references to primary or secondary scholarly sources. – Present information and views out of their proper context.
Find sites with the following characteristics:

• The site clearly states its purpose and/or motivation.

• The person or persons responsible for the site content have been clearly identified.

• The site contains a link to the homepage or the person or organization who is responsible for it.

• The site’s sponsors and/or advertisers are clearly listed.

• The site has other links that help users learn more about the information included at the site. (For example, references to reputable sources, like www.archives.gov.)

So, now you’ve got some tools that should make you a stronger researcher. If you have any questions about internet sources and History Day, contact us.

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