Historical research – a systematic process of describing, analyzing, and interpreting the past based on information from selected sources as they relate to the topic under study.
Analytical – uses logical induction
Qualitative – uses primarily qualitative research methods
Variety of foci:
Deals with events in past natural settings (not contrived)
Interpretation – central to the historical research process
Uses documents as primary source–requires researcher to be sensitive to relevant data
THE VALUE OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH
Provides basis for understanding the past
Provides perspective for decision making and policy formulation
Provides context for understanding why things are as they are
Provides information to avoid repeating previous mistakes
Assists in identifying past trends and applying these to current and future trends
Essential to understanding and judging current events and trends
Assists in predicting the future
Storehouse of great ideas
SOURCES OF INFORMATION IN HISTORICAL RESEARCH
Written records: Physical remains:
Living witnesses (recent past)
Primary sources – original or first-hand account of events or experiences
Secondary sources – accounts that are at least once removed from the event (such as reports about first-hand sources)
METHODOLOGY OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH
Generally – historical research methodology is neither highly established nor consistent | variety of approaches
1. Identification of research problem
2. Collection and evaluation of source material
3. Synthesis of source material information
4. Analysis, interpretation, and conclusions (Figure 9.1 on p. 222)
Identification of the Research Problem
Problem Statement – with or without hypotheses/questions
Hypotheses – stated as conjectures (research hypotheses) rather than statistical hypotheses.
based on the assumption of fact
critical to base hypotheses on accurate assumptions
require support for assumptions
Key Terms – critical that term are clearly defined and properly used throughout study
avoid vague terms/clarify all terms that might be vague
operationalize terms carefully
avoid assigning inappropriately past definitions/ connotations to present terms and vice-versa
Collection and Evaluation of Source Material
Collection – more than just compiling documents relevant to the research problem–documentation must be systematic and employ critical evaluation . . .
| use primary sources whenever possible
External criticism – validation of documents through determination that each document is authentic and genuine.
Involves determining the where, when, and by whom produced for each document.
author’s status within the context of the event (i.e. is the author a first-hand observer of the event?
consistency of time and place with what is known about the event
Internal criticism – validation of documents through establishment of the meaning, accuracy, and trustworthiness of each collected document. Focus on material content rather than on the material itself as a source.
Author – critical in internal criticism of a document
Author’s competence to give accurate report
Author’s predisposition to give accurate report
author’s ability to be objective rather than biased
author’s likelihood of including fictitious or exaggerated information
author’s style (could it be misleading?)
author’s use of other existing documents
Cross-referencing – extremely helpful in establishing accuracy and corroborating information of another document
preceding documents more reliable than those following the document under examination
common errors among two/more documents indicate a common erroneous source
contradictory documents indicate that at least one (and possibly both) are in error
the discounting of one document does not establish the validity of the other
Synthesis of Information
Synthesis – Compilation of information from materials collected once all materials have been determined to be authentic and relevant.
consider relative importance of sources (primary > secondary)
chronologically order materials to avoid confusion and observe patterns
determine central themes and ideas
develop continuity among sources
establish consistency among sources
Synthesis – may lead to reformulation of hypotheses/research questions or articulation of new ones (especially if author chose not to formulate these originally).
Analysis, Interpretation, and Formulating Conclusions
Involves decision making regarding the research problem, research questions, and/or hypotheses.
documented information is analyzed logically
collected information is interpreted
conclusions are formulated/alternative conclusions are considered
hypotheses are supported or rejected
research questions are answered
1. Confusion of correlations and causes–interpreting correlations as cause-and-effect relationships
2. Confusion between actual and apparent behavior of individuals involved in the study–actual behavior often not documented as well as how people appeared to behave
3. Confusion between intent and consequences–our tendency to ascribe consequences to deliberate intentions (actual intervening causes may not be readily apparent)
Conclusion sections–frequently length narratives in which conclusions may be dispersed throughout the narrative. Great variety of specific styles and formats in writing this section.