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* Humanities: Overview
Researching in the Humanities
Research in the humanities generally involves interpretation of a text or a work of art within a historical and cultural context, frequently bringing to bear a particular type of analysis and often relying on establishing connections, attributing significance, and exploring contradictions or ambiguities. Scholars in the humanities typically use library resources in at least three ways:
  • to obtain primary sources to be interpreted or analyzed;

  • to find secondary sources to put primary sources in a critical context;

  • to seek answers to specific questions that arise during research.

Research in the humanities is often interdisciplinary, crossing boundaries between literature and history, philosophy and art, or music and religion. It also resists categorization and uses terminology that is less solid and agreed upon than in other fields. Researchers in the humanities are more likely to draw research material from texts and artifacts than from original data gathering and experimentation. Because of this they must be prepared to be:
  • flexible, both in search terminology and search strategy,

  • tolerant of multiple perspectives on the same object of study,

  • aware of the usefulness of citations given in texts that may provide leads to other materials and clarify connections among cited works, and

  • willing to return to the library as new questions arise.

Fortunately, there are many fine research tools to help. Those listed here are not available in every library, but they will give you some ideas to start with. Always bear in mind, too, that librarians are a particularly user-friendly research tool. Plan to ask a librarian for recommended resources as you begin your research, and use the librarian's expertise as your research progresses and your questions grow more specific.

Use the menu at top right to choose between information on Finding Sources or Documenting Sources within this discipline.
Finding Sources
Documenting Sources


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