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Environmental History: A Library Research Tutorial

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

How to Read Academic Books

Here are some tips on how to use books more effectively in your research:

  • Read the table of contents, introduction, and conclusion first. Academic works are not novels - you'll get more out of it if you know in advance the author's main points and conclusions.
  • Use the same strategy for reading each chapter: start with the introductory and concluding paragraphs. Try to summarize the main point of this chapter. As you read the rest of the chapter, decide if the author's evidence supports their argument.
  • Raid the bibliography of a good book for more sources, both primary and secondary. Ask a librarian if you need help locating a cited source.

Taking Notes & Citing Sources

It's a good idea to write down full citations for each book or article you read. Including a citation with your notes will help you stay organized and be ready to write your paper later.

Find a note-taking strategy that works for you. But definitely make sure to find and write down the author's main argument and what types of primary sources they use as evidence. Here are some additional resources with tips on taking notes in history.

Historians most often use The Chicago Manual of Style citation format. This online resource includes examples of citation formats for many different types of sources, including books, journal articles, government publications, and several types of primary source documents. If you need help figuring out how to properly cite a source, don't hesitate to contact your librarian, Adam Beauchamp, for help!  FSU Libraries' website also has a Citation Guide that has some helpful information on how to cite various sources in Chicago style.  You can find the Chicago Manual of Style Citation Guide here:

Citation Guide - Chicago Manual of Style

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