Step 1: Connect
Think about the theme and what you know about Chicago history. Is there a topic that interests you? How can you connect it to the theme Explore, Encounter, Exchange in History? Start with understanding what those ideas even mean. Here are some definitions from Merriam-Webster Word Central:
- Explore: to search through; look into
Note: This isn't just about places. Most projects will be about people or groups who explored ideas.
- Encounter: to engage in a struggle; to come face-to-face
Note: This can be individual people or groups coming up against other people, ideas, or more.
- Exchange: the giving or taking of one thing in return for another
Note: Again, this does not have to be an actual "thing" that is traded. Think about ideas, culture, beliefs, and more.
You'll start by doing enough basic research to gain context for your topic and be able to relate it to the theme and create a thesis statement that will guide your research.
Step 2: Wonder
Before you can do your research, you need to make a plan. Otherwise, you will end up with a lot of information that isn't useful, and you'll miss out on information you need.
- Develop questions: What do I need to know about this time/person/event in history? What questions do I have about my topic? Are these questions ones that can be answered through research (open-ended, but answerable)?
- Begin your KWHL planning document by filling in the K and W sections (what you Know, what you Want to know).
- Make predictions: What do I expect to find in doing this research? How does this relate to my thesis? Will the questions I’ve developed lead me to the information I need to support my thesis?
- Now that you've identified what interests you and what you want to learn, revise your thesis if needed.
Step 3: Investigate
Another way to save work is to make a plan to look for answers to these questions. Fill in the H section of your KWHL (How you will find what you want to know - each type of information can be found in a different place). Consider what sources are most likely to help you find answers to your questions and develop a list of places to look for information. Make sure to include a variety of sources (print vs. electronic, primary vs. secondary, etc). Think about what you hope to find in each source.
Here are many of the resources available for you to use, with descriptions of what you will find in each one:
Chicago Metro History Fair
The Chicago Metro History Education Center has a detailed website dedicated to all aspects of its annual History Fair. Stop here for everything from logistical details to research help, and to view resources on many Chicago history topics. Use the links on the left to pick sections.
Encyclopedia of Chicago
A free, online version of a print reference book from the Chicago History Museum, the Newberry Library and Northwestern University. With articles on thousands of topics related to Chicago history, it is a great early stop for general information.
Gale Research in Context
Offers a broad range of authoritative reference content in an easily searchable format. Provides access to full-text magazines, academic journals, news articles, primary source documents, images, videos, audio files, and links to quality websites on numerous topics.
Britannica School: Middle
This is a really broad overview of major topics, so not everyone will find information here. It makes a nice starting point for background information or to better understand broad topics.
Library of Congress: American Memory Project (primary sources!)
The Library of Congress provides free, digital access to more than 9 million resources documenting American history and culture, broken down into thematic collections. You can search the site for specific topics, or look within a section dedicated to 55,000 photographs from the Chicago Daily News from 1902-1933, provided by the Chicago History Museum.
National Archives Digital Vaults (primary sources!)
A collection of more than 1,200 primary source photographs and documents from the National Archives collection. There probably isn't something here for every topic, but it's a site to try for inspiration or to get a feel for history.
Chicago Public Library: Chicago History
The Chicago Public Library has a pathfinder (a web page that points to other resources) with extensive information on Chicago history, including databases, websites, library materials, and several topical sub-sites. It also has a narrower pathfinder dedicated solely to the History Fair.
Chicago History Museum: Chicago History Fair
The Chicago History Museum offers online resources to help with History Fair projects, including general reference materials and specialized sites on popular topics like the Haymarket bombing or the Great Chicago Fire.
CPS Explore! Resources
This is a list of links cultivated for different subject areas. While there isn't a section specifically for History Fair, if you scroll down to the Social Science section, there are quite a few high-quality history-based sites.
Books and eBooks
We have a few books here in the library that might be helpful in doing Chicago history research, as well as a number of eBooks from CPS. Coming soon: Both can be found on this list (anything with [electronic resource] in the title is an eBook; the rest are here in the library). Click on the title to find out if a book is available and how to access it.
In addition to the above, anyone with a Chicago Public Library card can access even more databases, including several with primary sources. The following options could be helpful depending on your topic:
American National Biography Online
Biographies of thousands of deceased Americans, published by Oxford University press. Could be a good starting point for research on famous Chicago figures.
Biography in Context
A collection of more than 600,000 biographies of people across history and disciplines, this Gale resource will provide articles on many notable Chicagoans.
Chicago Defender Historical Archive
Searchable first-hand accounts from 1910-1975 of political and social events on a local, regional and national level. Provided by ProQuest’s Historical Newspapers – Black primary source database.
Genealogical and historical search site from ProQuest that offers access to local primary sources dating back to the 1700s.
Illinois Sanborn Maps
Another ProQuest resource, this site allows students to search historical Chicago maps from the 19th and 20th centuries.
ProQuest One Search
General reference database with access to thousands of titles across popular subjects, including history.
Creating Your Bibliography
A bibliography (also called a works cited page) is an important part of any research project. It lets others find the exact sources you used. They might want to do this to explore your topic more, to make sure what you said was correct, or to double check for plagiarism. MLA format is a good place to start, and it is one of two accepted formats for the History Fair.
We will soon have a tool to help us build notecards and bibliographies. For now, track your sources using Diigo so you remember ALL the sources you used for your project.