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American History

Researching American history, from the Founders to the Civil Rights Era.

Picking a topic

There are many different lenses for examining history. If your topic is well-known and extensively written about, consider how you might add to the conversation. Can you examine the topic from an unusual lens?

  • Political history (the history of a nation, between nations, the history of government and power)
  • Economic history (trade, finance, taxes)
  • Social history (minority and marginal groups, gender, race, relations between social groups)
  • Intellectual history (of ideas, education, of disciplines)
  • Religious history (beliefs, practice, structures)
  • Cultural history (popular culture, material culture, consumption, art)
  • Environmental history (relations between humans + environment, history of natural environment, of industry)

Background information

Before you begin searching for articles or books on your topic, you need to identify the right keywords. Consider:

  • WHO are the people? Look for specific names.
  • WHERE did the events take place? Look for place names like towns, regions, or landmarks.
  • WHEN did the events take place? Not just the year in which it took place, but the name of that era (e.g., Regency era).
  • WHAT was the event called when it happened? WHAT is it called now? (e.g., "The Great War" vs. "World War I")

Make a list of the key names and phrases that describe your topic so you can refer back to it when searching.

Get started in one of these databases: