Back to Title Page/Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The purpose of this site is to help students and other scholars to use the huge network of interlinked computers known as the Internet to find historical sources they can use in their research. It is especially addressed to the student in a college or university history course who is preparing a research assignment (term paper, thesis, or dissertation).

Athough the Internet has been around for many years, only recently has it become a significant source for historical research. This development has been spurred by the introduction and growth of the World Wide Web, an Internet interface with graphical, sound, and video capabilities. Many academic departments and libraries in colleges and universities have begun to produce Web sites with valuable materials. Some commercial enterprises and individuals have also created useful sites.

Yet, to many students and some of their professors, the Internet remains a gigantic and seemingly random repository of facts, opinions, propaganda (much in the form of advertising), self-promoting home pages (some are that, some not), etc. Some persons have come to believe that there probably are historical "treasures" among a lot of Internet "trash" but do not know how to sift through the latter to get to the former. This site attempts to provide ways to accomplish just that.

"Using the Internet as a Resource for Historical Research and Writing" will introduce you to some finding aids to help you locate relevant materials for your research project. Among these are subject directories which provide links to other lists and to specific documents. By selecting these links (underlined or highlighted in the text) one can access other Internet locations. The other chief aid for finding materials is the search engine. That term refers to electronic devices which sweep through as many as several million individual Web pages and other Internet sites, looking for material on a given subject. As you explore this site, you will find examples of problems one often encounters while using these finding aids.

You will find detailed sections on searching for the two categories of historical research materials, primary sources and secondary sources, and another on how to evaluate the sources you find. Also, you will learn how to use the Web to find and evaluate hard-copy books and articles relating to your research project.

You will learn how to find help on the Internet for the writing stage of your project. There are, indeed, many aids to show you how to write accurately, effectively, and interestingly. There is information, too, about how to cite sources that you find on the Internet.

Because even the most serious student needs a diversion now and then from research and writing, you will find suggestions for using the Internet to take virtual trips to places of historical interest, play games to test your history knowledge, do miscellaneous light reading about history, and, if you like, tackle some more serious pieces about history, historians, and the Internet.

Finally, there will be a summing up of the prospects and problems of using the Internet for historical research. I hope that you find the site both useful and interesting.

Roger A. Griffin
Austin, Texas
December 1997

On to the next section

Back to Title Page/Table of Contents