My Take on Historical Research

January 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

J.R.R Tolkien, a famous author, poet and professor once said, 

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

Just like setting out to find your lost watch and finding the keys to a car instead, research is an unpredictable and sometimes, misleading journey. It has the potential to unlock new doors to our past and present society, to set up the ground for new theories and ideas. Yet, just like finding the car keys are not the same as finding your watch, one might set out to discover why race relations in America came to a boiling point in the 20th century, and come out with a report on race riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma from 1901-1925. Research is not always finding what you set out for, but instead, it’s the art of learning what can be found from the materials present. The tricky game of what’s best and possible to prove therefore makes research more than just an activity; it makes research a ‘lifestyle’.

Now, to be honest, Tolkien may have been a little cryptic in his message, but, never the less, his words were true. Research is a daily practice, something that most students have a greater chance to experience day by day than any other population in the United States. We have access to some of the most abundant libraries and databases in the world, yet, our minds flounder how to successfully use them.

The Historical Research DeCal targets just that mindset, it cultivates the natural desire to know more and more about something while providing students with the necessary tools to quench that ever-present thirst. I walked out of this DeCal understanding not only the value of research, but excited to engage in the process of delving deeper into more of my own questions and interest. One of the most effective measures within this DeCal is the absence of a research paper do at the end of the semester, instead of being bogged down with the analysis of all my sources, I had the opportunity to actually engage with the photos, book, articles and significance.

Research, whether it be with the sciences of the humanities, holds the key to knowing more about what makes our world what it is today. And being guided through our many resources on campus, from the Media Resource center to the Regional Office of Oral Histories, there is a place of research for everyone.


Applications are now open!

January 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

To enroll in the class, please:

1. fill out the application by Thursday, February 8 at 11pm.

2. attend one of the enrollment classes. Monday 12 – 2 (108 Wheeler) or Wednesday 10 – 12 (204 Dwinelle). We will send out CCNS by Sunday, February 10.

Here’s the syllabus.

Reflections from a Former Student and Current Facilitator of the Workshop

January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

I took this course the fall after I had already finished both my 103 and my 101 history courses. Through the weeks of exploring the various resources and databases the university has to offer, after venturing out on my own, I realized how much more I could have done. Perhaps that is always a nagging feeling researchers have; there must be more out there that I haven’t found yet. For me, it was eye-opening and made me hope that other students about to write their final project could be properly equipped with research tools that could open up opportunities for greater understanding and far-ranging sources.

As you explore the different databases with your topic in mind and find potential sources, you will be practicing evaluating them for their potential usefulness. Noting what you could possibly use, which lines of inquiry proved unfruitful or garnered results, and writing your findings in the weekly journals will provide a platform for your fellow students to follow your progress and share in your successes and failures. Ultimately, the journals will provide a kind of working annotated bibliography that you will compile at the end of the term. It will be the formal compendium of your work and will help you become familiar with method of presenting sources which you will encounter again and again in other courses.

This class introduced me to several new resources, and the two I enjoyed most especially were the microfiche library and the Environmental Design Library. Being able to access thousands of past newspaper articles is invaluable for historic research. I found several articles talking about my area of interest, housing in Richmond in the post-war period, which illuminated some contemporary attitudes about the new Southern population in the Bay Area following World War II. The Environmental Design Library was full of literature about New Deal housing legislation, which shaped the way development played out in Richmond, even after the war. I had used some of this literature from Doe while writing my thesis, but I found even more detailed and in-depth sources while in the Environmental Design Library.

Spring 2013 Sections

January 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

We are so excited to announce there will be TWO sections of the Historical Research Workshop this semester!  Save the date for enrollment classes:

  • February 4, Monday 12:00 – 2:00
    108 Wheeler
  • February 6, Wednesday 10:00 – 12:00
    204 Dwinelle

Which one are you interested in attending?

While the course’s focus is on historical research,  this class is open to all majors and will provide an excellent introduction resources at UC Berkeley.  No research experience is required; this class will be useful to both undeclared freshmen and upperclassmen preparing to write their thesis.  By the end of this course you will be able to navigate both physical and electronic resources at UC Berkeley, strategically pursue resources, and speak and write confidently about your research process and strategy.  Scroll down to read some journal entries from last semester’s class.  If you have any questions about whether this class is the right fit for you, please contact us!

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