This guide will help students gather sources to cite in their historical essay assignments in Professor Joyce Huff's ENG 230 course. It provides links to resources that contain information that will give context to the social and historical events, periods, and conditions depicted in short stories students have read for the course.
Use the links on the left side of the guide to find lists of resources divided into separate pages for different kinds of information. Most of the resources are part of the University Libraries electronic collections; if you are working at a computer off campus, you will likely be prompted to log in them with your Ball State username and password. Other resources in this guide are freely available on the Internet.
It is often useful, before you being searching for information, to think of potential search terms.
When looking for information about a literary work - a novel, short story, play, etc. - the title of that work and/or the author's name will usually suffice. Searching for information about historical events, social conditions, or cultural milieus depicted in that work requires formulating research questions and thinking about their main ideas.
A person researching the real-world context of The Great Gatsby might be interested in the novel's themes of class, marital fidelity, changing morality, and youth, and the historical realities of the emerging new rich, parties, bootlegging, and crime. In order to manage your research, break your broad ideas into individual research questions. For example:
- What were personal relationships like between people of different socioeconomic classes during the early 20th century?
- What attitudes prevailed about upward mobility into different classes during the early 20th century?
- What behaviors and beliefs surrounded marriage and fidelity during the early 20th century?
- How did morals, especially those of young people, change during the 1920s?
- What was it like to be a bootlegger during Prohibition, and how did they succeed or fail in building their fortunes?
- Who fixed the 1919 World Series, which was thrown by the Chicago White Sox, and what role did Arnold Rothstein have in the plot?
A researcher should not attempt to search for answers to multiple questions at the same time, however. Rather, you should handle your research questions separately, one question at at time. Imagine again the Gatsby researcher taking up the first question on their list. They could begin by thinking about the question's main ideas - which will become search terms. For example:
What were personal relationships like between people of different socioeconomic classes during the early 20th century?
"Personal relationships," "socioeconomic classes" and "early 20th century" would be good search terms for this question. You can also think of synonyms for your main ideas. They will become alternate search terms. For example:
- Personal relationships, relationships, marriage, courtship, friendship, business relationships
- Socioeconomic classes, class, new rich, nouveau riche, upper class, middle class, poverty, poor
- Early 20th century, 20th century, 1920s, Roaring Twenties, Jazz Age
Alternate search terms do not need to be one-to-one interchangeable with your initial main ideas. They can be broader, narrower, or related terms.
After doing this for one research question, generate search terms for your other questions. The next step would be to search for sources - again, one question at a time. The rest of this guide discusses how to search for sources of various kinds.
Thinking of these words ahead of time will let you focus on your searches once you're working in a database, and prevent you from having to pause to think of additional terms.