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Environmental History: A Library Research Tutorial

Guide to historical research using library materials and freely available online resources.

Evaluate your Sources

Read through the Introduction (for books) or the Abstract (for journal articles) for each of your sources in order to get a basic understanding of how each source approaches the area of study, and how each one fits into the larger picture.

Look for connections between them: do any of your sources cover the same topics within the area of study? If so, then do the authors of those sources have similar opinions about the topic? Or do they disagree?

Pro Tip: Make sure to look at the sources cited in each work. Do any of those sources sound like they might be relevant to your topic? If so, then search for the title with the library's One Search tool to find out if FSU Libraries have a copy.

Evaluate your Topic

Based upon your initial reading of your sources, how have your ideas about this topic changed? Have you narrowed the scope? Did you find a new idea to explore? 

Now might be a good time to find additional sources based on what you’ve learned. Search the library's catalog or databases for other books or journal articles that specifically address that topic within the larger area of study.  Have you found enough sources on the topic to meet your professor's requirements for the number of sources used in your research paper? 

Pro Tip: It's a good idea to try to get a few more than the minimum required number, in case some of the sources turn out to not be as useful as you'd hoped. 

If you can't find enough sources on that topic, think about why. Is your topic too narrow? Is it too new or recent for much to be written on it yet? Go back to your sources--reference, books, journal articles--and look at your topic from a different angle. Can you expand it to something more general? Add a comparison case? Repeat the process as needed until you have refined your topic so that there is enough source material for your paper.

Remember: Research is iterative: it takes several cycles of searching, reading, searching, and reading to get it just right. That's why it's call RE-search!

Ask for Help

This is a good stage in the research process to ask for help.

Contact your professor if you're confused about the content of your paper. Is there something about the course's conceptualization of landscapes that is confusing or unclear? Professor Doel is the expert!

Send an email ( or visit office hours.

Contact your librarian if you're having trouble with the search process: selecting effective search terms, choosing sources from your results, or organizing your books and articles. Adam Beauchamp can help!

Send an email ( or schedule a Zoom appointment.

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