INF 7775: Primary Historic Research for Information Professionals and Archivists

Credits: 1

Prerequisite(s):  None

Course description

Library and Information Science education focuses on use of databases for research but additional skills in hands-on primary source work broadens librarians’ and archivists’ research skills. Excellent primary research abilities will deepen the resources available to the student and their future patrons.

This course addresses the variety and challenges in historic and records research of original material.  Students will develop research pre-planning, on-site planning and note-taking for solid organizational skills. The intent is to allow students to efficiently use their time to create a solid definable trail in order to document the research. This will enhance their ability to publish and professionally present as well as their ability to assist researchers in their employment.

Course content

  • An in-depth view of the vast resources available as primary or first-hand accounts of events.
  • Overview of the primary research process including pre-planning, use, and citation.
  • Explanation of various access tools for primary sources including various forms of card catalogs, finding aids and inventories.
  • Exposure to pertinent cases of misinterpreted or unethical original research.
  • Understanding of various writing styles and structures over time for modern readability.
  • Expert guest lecturers including historical and professional researchers.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of what primary research is.
  2. Be confident in their choices for types of research to use for various research questions.
  3. Understand handling and fragility limitations of some materials and how to record the content.
  4. Have in-depth familiarity with the differences in various institutions for access to content.
  5. Identify on-going issues of missing original materials or hard to access content.
  6. Clearly document the primary resources for later replication in publications or presentations.
  7. Understand how to explain conflicting resources.

Course methodology

Course format and method may include some or all: Lectures, readings, class discussions, oral presentations, guest speaker(s) and, where appropriate, tours of institutions.

Bases for evaluation of student performance

Some or all:

  1. Research paper
  2. Examination
  3. Oral Presentation
  4. Participation/Discussion


From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods, Cornell University Paperbacks, 2001


Brundrage, Anthony. Going to the Sources: A Guide to Historical Research and Writing, Wiley –Blackwell, 5th Edition, 2013