What Are the Tools Used by a Historian?

Save

The past is often murky, so historians use a number of tools to help them decode the world of yesterday. Historians conduct interviews for first-hand impressions of past events. More direct commentary is available from primary sources, like artifacts and photographs. Historians share their findings in scholarly journals, which allow them to build on each discovery. Books let historians share their extended research and become familiar with areas outside their expertise.

Primary Sources

  • Primary sources are original documents or artifacts that help shed light on an era. Examples of primary sources include diaries, pamphlets, eyewitness accounts, photographs, fabrics and manuscripts. Historians use primary sources whenever possible to try to create as accurate a picture of the past as possible. Primary sources may reveal aspects of events previously overlooked or suggest new interpretations of data. For example, a diary from the Jacobite Rebellion might provide new insight into how the public perceived the warring parties.

Scholarly Journals

  • Academics publish their research in scholarly journals, where their peers can read and analyze their findings. Reputable scholarly journals used by historians have a review process, where a board of editors approve research before it's included in the journal. This helps guard against the inclusion of inaccurate or inappropriate research. There are history-themed scholarly journals where historians can read the work of others and submit their own papers. Examples include the "Journal of American History," "Journal of World History" and "American Ethic History." Journals give historians a valuable opportunity to keep up on the work of their peers and exchange discoveries.

Personal Interviews

  • Historians use old interviews as primary sources, but they also create new interviews of their own. New interviews are valuable tools for gaining insight into controversial or ill-documented events. People selected for interview may include political figures, war survivors or elderly community members with unique memories. Historians record and transcribe these interviews and use them in their research. Often, historians donate their interviews to a community or university library. This ensures the interview is preserved for future generations and allows other historians access to their work. Scholarly interviews are also refereed to as "oral histories."

Books Are Key

  • Books are a key research tool for historians because they distill large amounts of information into manageable portions. A good historian may be able to condense thousands of primary sources into a single, readable volume. History volumes are not the only books that help historians. Books from specialists in other fields, like sociology and economics, help historians grasp concepts from areas outside their field. This is important because accurate historical analysis includes insight from a wide range of subjects, including ones that historians might not necessarily be experts on. For example, a good book on ecology would help a historian understand how agricultural pollution contributed to the historical decline of a civilization.

References

  • Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Promoted By Zergnet

Comments

Resources

You May Also Like

  • What is a Historian's Job?

    The job of an historian simply put, is to study the past. However, what a historian does is much more complicated than...

  • Tools Used in Sociology

    Sociology is the study of human social behavior. Sociologists use a combination of tools and methods to analyze people and society to...

  • What Tools Does an Architect Use?

    The architectural profession has changed dramatically in recent years due to technological advancements. Computers and other electronic devices have improved the speed...

  • What Is a Primary Source in Research?

    Primary sources are documents that provide accounts from the actual participants or witnesses of an event or artifacts that document a bygone...

  • How to Become a Historian

    There are many people who love the study of history. These people often believe the only careers available to historians are college...

  • How to Submit to an Academic Journal

    You've conducted your research, written dozens of drafts and meticulously edited your scholarly article. Now it's time to contribute your research to...

  • How to Find Primary Sources

    In doing research, it is important that you use both primary sources. Primary sources are actual records created by people who saw...

  • Research Tools Used in Primary & Secondary Research

    When conducting research, it is important to use both primary and secondary research. Secondary research has already been done and is available...

Related Searches

Check It Out

Can You Take Advantage Of Student Loan Forgiveness?

M
Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!