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Teaching Undergraduate Research Seminars

For those faculty teaching undergraduate senior thesis or research seminars, finding material to help students navigate things academics do as second nature can be difficult. Here are some of my favorite resources. In addition to assigning students to read sections of Turabian’s Guide and Strunk and White, I’ve found these online resources helpful and accessible.

Choosing a Topic

Ben Franklin’s World Episode 66: How Historians Choose a Topic

Writing a Prospectus

Writing an abstract 

Finding Sources

Primary source collections like those published by Women and Social Movements make great starting points for students. They contain documents, an introduction written by a historian and a bibliography. If your library doesn’t have a subscription to the database (or your students aren’t interested in gender history), you can find other sets like these but without the nice introduction at the Digital Public Library of America in their primary source sets. When my students get really stuck, I’ve put together sets of 5-10 documents and a couple of books and articles to get them started.

Students can also search historical newspapers at Google Newspaper Archives (sadly no longer being developed). 

For secondary source searches, your university librarians probably teach classes on searching databases and the catalog. I also give my students a quick and dirty introduction to how to use JSTOR and Academic Search Complete like a historian.

Analyzing Sources

Doing History Podcast Episode on How to Read Historical Sources

Managing Sources

I use Zotero to manage my own research material and I find students find is easier to use than a lot of other systems. It is particularly useful because it does a good job formatting Chicago style footnotes.


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