Before you begin your research, it is important to think ahead and reflect on the research questions that you will need to answer. You are performing the work of a forensic historian; it’s up to you to gather information about the past and to examine and critically assess it. Then, you can mobilize your research to write about the topic that MoEML has assigned to you.
The most important thing in the research stage of your project is to keep good records. Record your search terms/strings for any searches you perform in electronic catalogues, databases, and reference tools. Copy and paste any references and passages that look promising into a document, text file, or spreadsheet file. Be sure to record citation information and/or your sources for all excerpts, notes, and references. In your notes, distinguish carefully between quotations (the words of your source) and paraphrases (your words).
Be aware of the nature of the source you are reading: is it a primary source (a work from the early modern period) or a secondary source (a work about the early modern period by a historian or a literary critic)?
You also want to be aware of the nature of the resource or research tools you are using to find and access sources. The more you know about your research tools, the better you’ll be able to find what you need. Here are some questions to ask about each resource you use:
· Is the resource a bibliography? If yes, does it list primary sources, secondary sources, or both? What are the parameters of the bibliography? In other words, what does it include and what does it exclude?
· Is it a catalogue of the holdings of a particular library or archive?
· Is it a database in which someone has entered information about people or places? (See ROLLCO, for example.)
· Is it a library of primary sources? If yes, are the sources digitized, transcribed, or both? (See EEBO, for example.)
· Is it a library of secondary sources?
· Is it open-access or behind a subscription paywall so that you have to be logged into your library’s system to access your university’s subscription? MoEML prefers to support open-access scholarly projects whenever possible, in part because many of our users do not have access to the kinds of resources that academic libraries purchase.
Is it a hybrid resource? E.g., British History Online is a massive on-line library of primary and secondary sources, some of which have been transcribed and some of which have been digitized; some parts of it are open-access, and some are limited to subscribers.