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Based on the blog postings and our experiences, these are the various formats we use to take notes for research papers.

  1. Note Cards
  2. Post-It Notes
  3. Word Processor (with or without templates)
    1. Outlines or free-form notes
  4. Citation (or other pay note-taking software like Nota Bene)
  5. Microsoft OneNote
  6. Excel/Access–For information in larger quantities that is consistent in its form (e.g., the census).
  7. Scribe — GMU’s CHNM free note-taking software
  8. Zotero — CHNM’s free Internet research tool [See Demo] [Read a review of the tool and its limitations at Inside Higher Ed]

Good tips from the class blogs

  1. Start with the bibliographic info — Jessica & others
  2. Keep track of location of all information and note useful quotes — Justin
  3. Use hanging indents to separate information in early stages — Jessica
  4. Begin to organize materials by argument early on — Jessica & Cheryl
  5. Use a preliminary outline to help organize — Ellen
  6. Use a table to keep track of themes or arguments — Amanda
  7. Color Coding — Kari

These are tips that some of us in class have found helpful in our daily computer use.

Word 97/2003

“To alphabetize a bibliography in Word97, select data, click table, sort, OK, and the data will be sorted automatically for you.” — Ellen F.

Fonts and colors in Word — Justin

Jessica reminds us that we can use CTRL-F to find those words or phrases we commonly type wrong in our papers, and that using the Grammar Check can help identify examples of passive voice.

Word Document containing keyboard shortcuts for Word 2003.

— CTRL-C, CTRL-X, CTRL-V, (Also Paste Special), F12(Save As)

[Also, know how to change margins, use footnotes or endnotes (the latter with arabic numerals), format notes correctly, hanging indents in bibliographies]

Word 2007

Keyboard Shortcuts for Word 2007


F5, B (to black out screen)

General tips — Online

Elle points out the value of bookmarks, CTR-F, and a “new tab” button.

Lacey reminds us of CTRL-S, Alt-TAB, and the browsing tips of CTRL-N, CTRL-T, CTRL-W, and CTRL-SHIFT-W.

Use WorldCat/ArticleFirst, JSTOR, or American History & Life/Historical Abstracts to look up missing bibliography information. [Amazon can be used if you can actually see the title and LC page in the book.]

Mac Tips

“Using f11 and f10 on a mac lets you quickly switch from one window to another and this is very useful when looking at several word documents and an internet page on a small screen.” — Julie

American Memory by Library of Congress

American Memory – Subject Headings

“I Do Solemnly Swear . . .”: Presidential Inaugurations at American Memory

James Buchanan’s Presidential Inauguration (1857)

Lincoln documents, photos & transcriptions


Center for History and New Media — http://chnm.gmu.edu/

US sources and web reviews — http://historymatters.gmu.edu/

Richard Frethorne letter (1623)

Non-US sources and web reviews http://worldhistorymatters.org/

U. S. Historical Census Data Browser

Victorian-Era Robots


Department Web Site Links to Primary Sources

Questions to Ask About Websites

Source: Where does it come from?

Authority: Do you know if this individual/organization is reliable? What makes you think the author/webmaster is reliable or unreliable?

Audience: Who was the site created for?

Content: What is included in the site? Is the information broad/deep enough?

Accuracy: Is the information accurate? Does it refer to respected secondary sources?

Creation/Currency: When was the site created/last updated? What does “update” mean?

Design: Does the site link to other appropriate links and information? Also, is it aesthetically pleasing?

Medium: Does the site take advantage of the medium (of electronic technology) to enhance the source?

Usability: How is site organized? How easy would it be for a person to find the information they seek on this site?

[Adapted by J. McClurken from guidelines used in UMCP’s HILS program in the 1990s.]

Some examples from the class….

Name confusion — Justin

Wikipedia…. — Amanda

Wrong audience — Lacey

Credibility Questions — Davis, Tommy

Fanboy Sites (aka obsessive amateur) — Julie
[The site she should have linked to for today….]

What do we do about blogs? — Kari

Primary Sources

Jamestown Excavation

Sharpshooter in Devil’s Den, Gettysburg, 1863

Sebastian Münster (1488-1552)
, 1550

For Friday’s review of the proposal draft you get from a classmate at classtime, you’ll need to use the following MS Word document: [Link] When you’re finished tomorrow with the peer review, email a copy to me and to the person who you’re evaluating. [Do so by 3 pm Friday.]

For Monday, you need to bring one useful and one unhelpful primary source to class. Be prepared to explain why you categorize them in that way. Before class, you’ll need to create a blog post that answers the questions found at this link for one of your primary sources.

Database Searching

Well, I’m sure exhausted after 50 minutes of fast-paced searching in 4 different databases and a quick del.icio.us tutorial. I imagine everyone else is too. But, during those 50 minutes there were more than 100 different source citations marked in del.icio.us in those 50 minutes for people in the class. That doesn’t include those sources that were emailed using the various methods employed by the databases themselves.

As I said in class, for extra credit, spend five minutes blogging (no more) about what the experience was like, if you found many sources on your partner’s topic, and whether your partner found any useful sources for your topic. [When you do, link back to this post so we can keep track of these responses.]

Thanks for all your participation and patience during that session.

For Monday

1. Set up a del.icio.us account

Del.icio.us is what’s known as a social bookmarking site. In simplest terms it’s a way to keep track of online sites, blog postings, YouTube videos, whatever you want. See http://tools.umwblogs.org/delicious/ for a quick summary.

Sign up for your own account at http://del.icio.us and send me your username via email.

2. Create a blog post with the following details
A) Names of other professors consulted
B) Preliminary bibliography of books/websites/databases consulted
C) A brainstormed list of search terms/phrases for your topic

3. Bring your laptop to class (assuming it has a wireless connection). Email me if you’re planning on bringing yours.

Share 2-3 topics each

Group should evaluate for each person:

1) Which of a person’s topics sounds the most interesting

2) How feasible each topic is, given:
a. Sources available
b. Size of topic vs. length of this paper
c. Time in semester

3) Group should discuss whether a topic is likely too narrow or too wide.

4) Think down the road for each person:
a. What kind of sources might these people look for? What would be the ideal sources for that topic?
b. What kind of approaches to the material/topic would work best?

Monday’s Class

If you’re having trouble deciding between two or three topics for your semester-long project, bring them all with you on Monday. We’ll have a chance to discuss them during class.

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