Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Research best practices
Research is rarely ever well-achieved in a straight line
- Curiosity is key
Become familiar with resources available on your topic
- What types of resources are available to you?
- Explore diverse resources to make the strongest case for your topic presentation
- Start local. What do we have here at Carnegie Mellon? What's available here in Pittsburgh at local libraries?
- Search library catalogs for scholarly monographs (a single book dedicated to a person, event or topic) to give you a leg up on the research landscape
- Peruse tertiary resources like encyclopedias, historical surveys and timelines (aka chronologies) to begin developing contextual understanding
- Dissertations can be a gold mine for bibliography and focused topics
Log your keyword strategies when searching databases and the web to help build ideas and context for your topic
Primary and secondary resources
Primary and secondary resources work hand in hand to help inform understanding of an historic person or event. Their efficacy in informing your research can overlap.
Primary resources are direct links to the past including original documents, artifacts or accounts produced by a creator/witness in close space and time to the person or event. In the purest sense the source is in its original form--not condensed, interpreted or evaluated.
- birth certificate, letters, diaries, correspondence, memoranda, photographs, oral recordings or transcripts, documentary media (photography, audio, video), art work, interviews, legal documents, court records, testimonies, scrapbooks, speeches, electronic recordings or facsimiles from a viable source...
- be aware that original documents can be biased and/or persons and events misinterpreted.
Secondary resources are based in commentary, analysis or description outside the time and space frame of the historic person, creation or event.
- biography, autobiography, newspaper articles, scholarly journal articles, dissertations, historical fiction...
Tertiary resources help organize and locate secondary and primary resources
- bibliography, encyclopedias, historic surveys, timelines/chronologies, yearbooks...