Sources and Steps of Historical Research
Goldhor, 1972, p.98 states,
“True historical research, or historiography, is concerned with analysing and interpreting the meanings of historical events. It is the process by which a researcher is able to reach a conclusion as to the probable truth of an event in the past by studying objects available for observation in the present.”
Historical research is a qualitative research method that involves the process of studying the meaning of past events with an aim to interpret the facts and explain the cause of events, and their effect in the present events. The researcher collects and evaluates data to understand reports or observations made by others and tests the hypotheses related causes, effects or trends that can help in explaining present events and anticipating future events.
Johnson states about historical rewatch that,
“It is a flowing, dynamic account of past events, which involves an interpretation of these events in an attempt to recapture the nuances, personalities, and ideas that influenced these events.”
Steps of Historical Research
Isaac and Michael, 1981, p.44 state,
“Historical research involves reconstructing “the past systematically and objectively by collecting, evaluating, verifying, and synthesising evidence to establish facts and reach defensible conclusions, often in relation to particular hypotheses.”
1. Organisation: Before starting the research, the researcher must ensure that everything is in place.
2. Selecting a Topic: The researcher should choose a topic or the question they seek to solve through the research.
3. Formulation of Hypothesis: The hypotheses selected by the researcher for historical research must be useful in explaining events, conditions or phenomena of the historical period in question.
4. Collection of data: Once the hypothesis has been formulated, the researcher must start collecting the data.
5. List the assumptions upon which the hypotheses and procedures are based
6. Choose appropriate subjects and source materials
7. Select or construct tools for collecting data
8. Specify categories of data that are relevant for the purpose of the study, and capable of bringing out significant similarities, differences, or relationships
9. Collect reliable and valid data
10. Describe, analyse, and interpret their data in clear and precise terms
11. Draw significant and meaningful conclusions
Berg & Lure, 2012, p. 305:
Historical research or historiography attempts to systematically recapture the complex nuances, the people, meanings, events,and even ideas of the past that have influenced and shaped the present.
Sources of Historical Research
According to Ferrarotti, F. (1997),
“Historical research data is subject to external criticism (verification of genuineness or validity of the source) and internal criticism (exploring the meaning of the source). Historical research has time and place dimensions. Simple chronology is not considered historical research because it does not interpret the meaning of events.”
1. Primary Sources:
It involves the original creation of the time of the history to which they are referring to by providing first-hand or original information of the historical event. Some examples include tools, weapons, clothing, building, painting, coins, and the like.
2. Secondary Sources:
These are the sources which have been created by analysing and interpreting the primary sources. Some examples include literary works, biographies, and the like. They are written much later after a given historical event.
Gay, 1981, p. 432 opines,
“Historical research is the systematic collection and objective evaluation of data related to past occurrences in order to test hypotheses concerning causes, effects, or trends of those events which may help to explain present events and anticipate future events.”
Kevin Newton adds,
“Historical research involves looking at the past and what has been recorded, determining its credibility or accuracy and drawing from it for modern conclusions. Learn more about the definitions, methodologies, and the steps to conducting it.”