uniE610 Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research Approaches

Humanities and History Research - Characteristics

Research in the humanities differs in a number of important ways from standard social science or natural science research.

  1. Central Focus of Research: The central focus of research is on the analysis of textual, archival, and historical-cultural materials and events, people and organizations, rather than design and implementation of a research study.
  2. Research Article Structure: The format of a social science research article is usually quite clear, including sections on Literature Review, Methods, Data, and Interpretation. In humanities scholarship, the format is much less important. Key factors include in-depth interaction with primary and secondary source materials - often taking place both in the text and footnotes.
  3. Primary and Secondary Sources: In humanities, both books and journal articles are key formats for secondary sources. Primary sources consist of a wide range of historical-cultural materials created by the key subjects of the research study, or which are contemporary evidence related to the key subjects.
  4. Comprehensive Research Databases: Humanities databases usually include these multiple secondary source formats. In more general periodical databases, such as Academic Search Complete, limiting searches to "academic journals" is a good starting point for finding humanities research articles.
  5. Is this a Research Article?: Length of articles (10+ pages is a good indicator) and amount and complexity of footnotes/endnotes are good signs of whether or not a source is a good humanities research source. Article and books should include regular use of both primary and secondary source material throughout.
  6. Value of Older Materials: Studies typically retain their value more, over time, than social science studies. As a rule of thumb, if a book or research article was published in the last 25 years or so, it may well still have value as a research source. Of course, currency is also important, so, whenever possible, earlier studies need to be supplemented by more recent ones.

Humanities Research Databases




Human Communications