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Environmental History: A Library Research Tutorial

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


Once you’ve chosen a topic and acquired enough source material to support it, read through each source (thoroughly, this time) and use the information you learn about the topic to begin constructing an outline for your paper.

What are the major themes you need to explain for your reader to understand the topic?

Will your paper follow a chronological story or timeline?

Pro Tip: Write your introduction and conclusion last. The body is where you share evidence and make arguments. Your introduction will preview and summarize, respectively, what that overall argument is. You won't have a clear sense of the overall argument until you've written most of it out.


The writing process is not just one phase at the end of your research project. You are writing when you take notes, you are writing when you organize your ideas, and you are writing when you polish the final paper.

The outline you create first will change and evolve as you discover new primary sources and rethink your interpretation of the past. Primary sources can lead to surprising discoveries!

Think about the Outline, Primary Sources, and Writing stages as circular, constantly informing and changing one another.

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