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US History Survey: Spring '24 Research Paper

This guide was created in support of the US History Survey Spring 2024 research paper. For questions or help accessing any of the resources linked below, please contact Ms. Sinai

Getting Started: Select Your Topic & Form a Research Question

You may choose a topic related to 20th United States history. With such a broad scope, how can you identify something you want to research?

Start by asking yourself what are you interested in; what are your personal interests and passions, and how might they intersect with a historical topic? Use this organizer to help clarify your thinking. 

After settling on a topic, the most vital part of your paper is identifying a research question. This step is vital to your process, and will be the primary driver for your research. Explore this document for help developing a clear and answerable question. 

Background Reading: Get to Know Your Topic

Start by understanding the basics of your topic. As you read, take notes: who are the key people, places, themes? What is about your topic piques your curiousity that you would want to further investigate? Use this organizer to analyze at least two academic reference articles from the resources listed below. 

Can I use wikipedia?
Yes! If you're unsure where to begin, wikipedia can be an excellent source for basic information (important people, places, dates, etc.). Check the references at the bottom of each article to find additional sources, including primary documents. 

Secondary Sources: Understand the Scholarly Conversation

Be intentional about your keywords - who are the important figures, or events? How could you distill your topic into the most crucial words or phrases?

Use the Advanced Search option whenever possible to join together keywords and key phrases. Use quotation marks around phrases to ensure all words appear together in order. Such as "dollar diplomacy" 

Add search filters - limit to scholarly journal articles, book chapters (avoid book reviews!) 

To explore additional resources, visit our Online Resources A to Z.

Academic Journals and eBooks:

Academic Search Engines:

Books and eBooks:

To find a book, search the Bunn Library CatalogUse the General Keyword search to broaden your results. For a narrower focus, search the catalog by Subject Keyword using the drop-down menu. Books in the library are arranged according to their subject matter. 

To find books in the stacks, look at the call number:

  • 000-699: Lower Level

  • 800-899: Main Floor, next to Fiction

  • 700-799, 900-999: Second Floor

Have a useful book in hand?

  • Look at the Index for additional keywords and locate where they are discussed in your book. 

  • Check the Bibliography for additional sources that are connected to your topic.

Primary Sources: Integrate the Historical Evidence

Primary Source Collections via Bunn Library:
The collections linked below have a wide scope; use your search terms and filters to narrow your results to those that fit within your proposed topic. 

Newspaper and Periodical Archives:

Images, Art, & Related Information:

Digital Public Library of America:
Think of DPLA as a hub for archival collections throughout the United States. Search for your own keywords, or browse the curated resources available through the platform. 

Library of Congress:

National Archives:

Further Recommended Resources from the Web:
This is not an exhaustive list. Considering your topic, what kinds of collections might be most useful to your research? Is there a museum or cultural institution that may have archival collections relevant to your research? 

Image citations:

Fernandez, Orlando, photographer. In front of 170 W 130 St., March on Washington, l to r Bayard Rustin, Deputy Director, Cleveland Robinson, Chairman of Administrative Committee / World Telegram & Sun photo by O.
Fernandez. Washington D.C. New York, 1963. August 7. Photograph.

Fischer, Roger A., “Stonewall GLBT button,” Digital Public Library of America,

Gottlieb, William P. Portrait of Louis Armstrong, Between 1938 and 1948. United States, 1938. , Monographic. Photograph.

Lange, Dorothea, photographer. Oakland, Calif., Mar. A large sign reading "I am an American" placed in the window of a store, at 401 - 403 Eighth and Franklin streets, on December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas. The owner, a University of California graduate, will be housed with hundreds of evacuees in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of the war. Oakland California, 1942. Mar. Photograph.

Not Identified, and Robert Hemmig. Group of children posing under sign that reads "U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Security Administration Farm Workers Community". California El Rio, 1941. El Rio, California. Photograph.