Once individual pieces of information have been assessed in context, hypotheses can be formed and established by historical reasoning. (2) Did the secondary witness accurately report the primary testimony as a whole? More recent evidence concerning the potential reliability or unreliability of oral tradition has come out of fieldwork in West Africa and Eastern Europe. C. Behan McCullagh lays down seven conditions for a successful argument to the best explanation:[12], McCullagh sums up, "if the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true. Because good research and good writing go hand in hand, probably the single most important key to successful research is having a good topic. At some point, you'll want to read more about the techniques other historians have used for exploring similar questions. Remember that some types of information are easier to observe and report on than others. One secondary reference to a crucial letter or newspaper article can save you hours of mindless trawling, and lead you straight to the information you need. At the time of writing, the University Library is remains one of the few libraries of its size to have many of its records not available online, so remember that you have to check the green guard-book catalogues (and the supplementary catalogues) for most items published before 1977. "[8], Gilbert Garraghan maintains that oral tradition may be accepted if it satisfies either two "broad conditions" or six "particular conditions", as follows:[9]. This may well involve looking further afield, at classic books or articles that are not specifically on 'your' subject. We would then determine if the treatment or training had an impact on some outcome measure. If your interest is in the reception of a work, it is likely to be more fruitful to learn a lot about a few commentaries or reviews (where they appeared, who wrote them, and so forth) than to gather in randomly all the comments you can find. The sixth and final inquiry about a source is called internal criticism. It is a statistical syllogism when it is "established by a sufficient number and variety of instances of the generalization"; otherwise, the argument may be invalid because properties 1 through n are unrelated to property n + 1, unless property n + 1 is the best explanation of properties 1 through n. Analogy, therefore, is uncontroversial only when used to suggest hypotheses, not as a conclusive argument. appearing at the end of a Latin inscription on a tombstone stand for. Howell, Martha & Prevenier, Walter(2001). Cambridge has some of the best collections for the history of science anywhere. questions, How the Subsequent descriptions of historical method, outlined below, have attempted to overcome the credulity built into the first step formulated by the nineteenth century historiographers by stating principles not merely by which different reports can be harmonized but instead by which a statement found in a source may be considered to be unreliable or reliable as it stands on its own. Any given source may be forged or corrupted. From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods. Bernheim (1889) and Langlois & Seignobos (1898) proposed a seven-step procedure for source criticism in history:[3]. For that, all you need at the beginning are two things: (a) a problem that you are genuinely interested in and (b) a specific issue, controversy, technique, instrument, person, etc. After that, it's usually a good idea to immerse yourself in your main primary sources as soon as possible. The Whipple has a wide variety of guides, biographical dictionaries and bibliographies, so spend a few minutes early on looking at the reference shelves. Are words used in senses not employed today? The source whose account can be confirmed by reference to outside authorities in some of its parts can be trusted in its entirety if it is impossible similarly to confirm the entire text. It is at this stage of research, which is often best done in conjunction with writing up sections of your project, that knowing where to find answers to specific questions is most useful. 755 words (3 pages) Essay. Don't try to find out everything about your topic: pick those aspects that are likely to prove most fruitful for the direction your essay seems to be heading. The structure of the argument is as follows:[16]. Historical Research Methods: Strengths and Weaknesses. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. There are rich troves of material in these departmental collections, on topics ranging from phrenology and microscopy to the early development of pocket calculators. The Whipple Library is small and friendly, and has an unparalleled selection of secondary works selected over many years – don't just go for specific titles you've found in the catalogue, try browsing around, and ask the librarians for help if you can't see what you are looking for. It is a fantastic instrument for studying the human past – the historian's equivalent of CERN or the Hubble Telescope. Insofar as this 'original' source is an accurate report of primary testimony, he tests its credibility as he would that of the primary testimony itself." As the previous section has demonstrated, there are many branches of history today, each with different kinds of evidence, particular canons of interpretation, and distinctive conventions of writing. The purpose of this course is to introduce historians to the statistical exploration of historical problems. Frequently asked Definition: “Historical method refers to the use of primary historical data to answer a question. Thurén, Torsten. Secondary sources, primary sources and material evidence such as that derived from archaeology may all be drawn on, and the historian's skill lies in identifying these sources, evaluating their relative authority, and combining their testimony appropriately in order to construct an accurate and reliable picture of past events and environments. R. J. Shafer on external criticism: "It sometimes is said that its function is negative, merely saving us from using false evidence; whereas internal criticism has the positive function of telling us how to use authenticated evidence."[2]. The historical method of research applies to all fields ofstudy because it encompasses there: origins, growth, theories, personalities, crisis, etc. In historical research, the most important evidence often isn't sitting there on the surface – it's something you need to dig out through close reading and an understanding of the situation in which the document you are studying was written, or in which the object was produced. As you become familiar with your topic, you are likely to find that evidence you dug out at the beginning of your project is much more significant than you thought it was. Before beginning detailed work, it's obviously a good idea to read some of the secondary literature surrounding your subject. If you are studying a museum object, this is the time to look at it closely; if you're writing about a debate, get together the main papers relevant to it and give them a close read; if you're writing about a specific experiment, look at the published papers, the laboratory notebook, and the relevant letters. [7] Gottschalk says that a historian may sometimes use hearsay evidence when no primary texts are available. In the early stages, it's often a good idea to be general about (a) and very specific about (b). When we think of research, we often think of a laboratory or classroom where two or more groups receive different treatments or alternative training methods. The reason for this is simple: what is on the internet is the result of decisions by people in the past decade, while libraries and museums are the product of a continuous history of collecting over several thousand years. Therefore, (relative to these premises) it is probable (to the degree, In thousands of cases, the letters V.S.L.M. Most of these are listed elsewhere in this guide. Works that are otherwise dull or outdated in approach are sometimes based on very solid research. If an ancient inscription on a road tells us that a certain proconsul built that road while Augustus was princeps, it may be doubted without further corroboration that that proconsul really built the road, but would be harder to doubt that the road was built during the principate of Augustus.