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HST 330: The Later Middle Ages

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This page offers advice about choosing a research topic using reference books and collections of primary resources.

Reference books are the best place to start research in an unfamiliar topic. Some--encyclopedias, handbooks, subject dictionaries--provide quick and reliable information on a topic and its background.  Many reference books provide selective bibliographies: recommended sources for further reading.

Advice on choosing a research topic

My advice for choosing a subject to research: select a broad area that interests you but do not commit to a specific project until you: 

  1. Read some overviews--maybe in a specialized encyclopedia, maybe in a monograph--about the subject,
  2. Determine that there are sufficient secondary materials, and
  3. That there are primary documents available in a language you read.

Another useful approach is to begin with available primary documents and frame your questions on the available resources!

A good place to begin looking for a topic is a textbook, a general history of the period, or a reference book, such as the Dictionary of the Middle Ages, REF D114 D5 1982. These will provide an overview of the subject, introduce issues or questions you can investigate, and provide lists, long or short, of recommended readings. The bibliographies in recent substantial books are especially useful.

Consider basing your project on one or more primary documents rather than looking for documents to support a project based on readings in secondary materials.




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Sonia Pacheco
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Claire T. Carney Library
Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives
Room M07 (Map to my office)
285 Old Westport Road
Dartmouth, MA 02747