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Chinese Studies Research Guide: Archives & More


HIST 490T: Research Goals | Strategies

Research Goals

1) Explore your research interests and topics, including contexts and related topics

2) Map out helpful resources for your topic

3) Gain familiarity with databases, archives, digital collections, search engines/discovery tools, and finding aids

4) Develop research strategies and techniques  

5) Critically read, interpret, analyze, and synthesize information sources 

6) Ask further questions


Analyze Research Topics-- From Dr. Lisa Tran: "STEP 1: Topic"

[1. Identify a topic on contemporary China that you are interested in exploring for your research project. Provide details about the subject, timeframe, location, and specific aspect to be explored. Given the theme of this course, your topic must focus on China in the period after 1949. China is broadly defined as including the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas communities of people who identify as Chinese.

2. Pose at least 1 question that is historically significant and has no clear-cut answer that you are interested in weighing in on.

3. List people, groups, organizations, countries, places, concepts, issues, events, developments, themes, and any other details related to your topic.


Analyze Secondary Sources-- From Dr. Lisa Tran

1. Locate a secondary research source

2. Read the scholarly work you located. Pay attention to the approaches the author uses, the questions that the author poses about the topic, the answers offered, and the primary sources used to support these answers. Draw from your selected scholarly work to answer the questions below:

What is the author’s methodology (approach)?

What is the author’s research question?

What is the author’s thesis?

What evidence (primary sources) does the author use?

How do the sources that the author uses frame the author’s analysis of the topic?

3. Situate the work within the broader historiographical context by answering the following questions:

How does the author relate her or his study to previous scholarship?

In which fields does the author situate the topic?

What have been the explanations of the topic in those fields?

How does the author categorize and characterize those explanations? Pay attention to how the author organizes the works discussed, and what the author praises and criticizes in the works of others.

How does the author elaborate, revise, or debunk claims made by other scholars writing on the same topic? Note what the author accepts and what the author questions or refutes.

What gaps or distortions does the author note in previous scholarship?

How does the author’s work aim to address those gaps or distortions?

What does the author highlight as distinctive, unique, or innovative about her or his work?

How does the author’s work contribute to the way that scholars understand your topic in the fields identified earlier?


Approaches to Analyze a Research Topic & Create Search Statements

1. What is your topic?
Write down words, phrases, ideas, concepts, or questions. Consider this brainstorming. And watch how it evolves as your research grows.

2. General/Specific
Is the topic too general? What words/concepts would be more specific?

3. Broad/Narrow
Is your topic too broad?
How can you narrow down your topic so it is more focused?

4. Clarity
Are the words in the topic vague or clear? What words would be more clear?

5. Break down complex topics
If your topic is complex and convoluted, break down the topic into several smaller topic areas.

Digital Collections | Finding Aids

New Media: Website, Blog, Twitter, etc.