Text Analysis Portal for Research- this text analysis tool allows you to search texts - your own or on the web - for specific words, and provides a statistical analysis.

Finding aids for archival and manuscript collections 200u- Database Ithaca, N.Y. : Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections : Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, 200u- English

Research Strategy

  1. Read background information on your subquestion(s)/topic in one or more special, as opposed to general, encyclopedias. Refer to the Guide to reference : essential general reference and library science sources to learn what special encyclopedias and other pertinent reference tools exist for your research.
  1. Compile a list of relevant vocabulary for your research by consulting the Library of Congress Subject Headings (available online and at the reference desk). Keep a running list of subject headings as you work.
  1. Search Cornell University Library Catalog, which contains records for the majority of the Library's holdings for specific sources listed at the end of the encyclopedia articles you have read. Write down the complete call number for each book you wish to use. Maintain a list of all the call numbers you identify so that you can browse pertinent areas of the collection. (Included are sources which Cornell may not have but which you can request via Borrow Direct or interlibrary loan (provided you have sufficient time to wait for material from another library, often two weeks or more).
  1. Begin systematic browsing of the shelves under all the call numbers you have established in step 3. Examine the tables of contents, indexes, and bibliographies of books that are located adjacent to ones you know are relevant. Do not overlook books in languages you do not read; they may give you important leads to sources you would want to know about. Keep careful track of the complete citation for any source that appears useful so you will have all the details ready for your own bibliography.
  1. Use relevant indexes to identify specific articles on your topic in both scholarly and popular publications, including newspapers. Confer with a reference librarian about which indexes, both electronic and printed, are best for your needs. If the index provides citations to articles, rather than the full text as many now do, you should print out, download, e-mail, or write down the complete information for each item. Be sure to expand journal title abbreviations to their full form; there are reference books which can help if the abbreviation is not obvious.
  2. Return to the Library Catalog to find call numbers for additional books you have identified via footnotes and bibliography entries and to determine if CUL subscribes to the periodicals or newspapers for which you now have article citations. Track these down and continue to identify still more relevant sources provided by those books and articles.
  1. Toward the end of the research phase of your project, consider using the massive Web of Science database to identify recent scholarly articles that have made use of key sources you already know about. This is an extremely powerful and complex electronic resource, so please ask a reference librarian to demonstrate it for you.
  1. Lastly, browse the most current issues of periodicals that have turned up most frequently in your research to date. The Web of Science can help you discover new scholarly sources.

What is a Primary Source?

A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:

  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records 

  • CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art 

  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII 

  • The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History 

  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings 

  • Weavings and pottery - Native American history 

  • Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece 

Selected Primary Sources on the Internet

What is a secondary source?

A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of secondary sources include:

  • PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias 

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings 

  • A history textbook 

  • A book about the effects of WWI 

Search by keyword for Primary Sources in the Library Catalog
You can search the Main Catalog to find direct references to primary source material. Perform a keyword search for your topic and add one of the words below:
(these are several examples of words that would identify a source as primary)

  • charters

  • correspondence

  • diaries

  • early works

  • interviews

  • manuscripts

  • oratory

  • pamphlets

  • personal narratives

  • sources

  • speeches

  • letters

  • documents

Getting Started With Thesis Research

  1. Begin with a topic area that intrigues you: a person, event, culture, movement, issue, innovation…. Read a summary of this area in several specialized encyclopedias or surveys.

  2. Start brainstorming with others and begin a research log. Make notes of your ideas as well as of particular sources you learn about and want to peruse.

  3. Transform the topic area into several interesting questions. Then write down several intriguing subquestions that occur to you. For a 12-15 page term paper, select one of these subquestions to concentrate on. This will become your "real" topic, although you will probably focus it even further in the course of your research. For a junior paper or senior thesis, select two or more subquestions to explore; each section or chapter of your project can address a separate subquestion.

  4. Think about what information you would like to discover in order to answer your subquestion(s).

  5. Speculate about the sources where that information might be found:

a.What physical formats do you expect are relevant: books, periodical or newspaper articles, what else?
b.What kinds of sources you would like to provide that information: Is their nature primary, secondary, or a mix of both?

  1. How much information do you expect to need?

  2. What time factors affect your research:

a.When are your deadlines?
b.What are the important dates surrounding your subquestion(s)?
c. How current do you wish your sources to be?

  1. What biases are likely to be present in your sources of information?

  2. Who cares? What disciplines, organizations, institutions, or experts have ever been concerned with your subquestion(s)?

  3. What types of hybrid, fact, and finding reference tools do you think you will need in the course of your research, either to verify details or to identify relevant sources?

  4. If you have not already done so, discuss your thoughts at this point with your professor or adviser.

Major Types of Reference Tools

[Each discipline has specialized works in most of these categories;  refer to the Guide to reference  to identify specific titles]

Hybrid Tools
Encyclopedias, both general and specialized
College textbooks

Fact Tools

Biographical compendia
Handbooks & companions
Plot summaries
Quotation books
Statistical abstracts

Finding Tools
Citation databases

Meta Tools
Bibliographies of bibliography
Guides to reference works

Primary vs. Secondary Source

Primary sources

A primary source is an original object or document -- the raw material or first-hand information. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, and art objects. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies -- research where an experiment was done or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences, so those articles and papers that present the original results are considered primary sources.

Secondary sources

A secondary source is something written about a primary source. Secondary sources include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material. You can think of secondary sources as second-hand information. If I tell you something, I am the primary source. If you tell someone else what I told you, you are the secondary source. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research.

Research versus Review Articles

Although scientific and other peer reviewed journals are excellent sources for primary research, not every article in those journals will be a research article. Content may also include book reviews, editorials, and review articles. Since review articles include citations and are often quite lengthy, on first glance, they can be difficult to differentiate from original research articles. Since the authors of review articles are discussing, analyzing, and evaluating others' research, not reporting on their own research, review articles are not primary sources. They can be of great value, however, for identifying potentially good primary sources.

Primary research articles can be identified by a commonly used format. Look for sections titled Methods (sometimes with variations, such as Materials and Methods), Results (usually followed with charts and statistical tables), and Discussion. Since a review of the literature is part of the research process, the article will also include bibliographic citations and a Works Cited section at the end. An Abstract at the beginning will summarize the research findings and give you a good sense of the kind of article that is being presented, so this is an excellent tool to use to determine if the item is a review article or a research article. If there is no abstract at all, that in itself may be a sign that it is not a primary resource. Short research articles, such as those found in Science and similar scientific publications that mix news, editorials, and forums with research reports, however, may not include any of those elements. In those cases look at the words the authors use, phrases such as "we tested"  and "in our study, we measured" will tell you that the article is reporting on original research.





  • Lincoln's Gettysburg Address


  • Garry Wills' book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America
  • The poem "Field Work" by Seamus Heaney


  • "A Cold Eye Cast Inward: Seamus Heaney's Field Work." by George Cusack in New Hibernia Review (2002 Autumn), pp. 53-72.
  • The figures for Ithaca College found in a table of "Number of Offenses Known to the Police, Universities and Colleges" in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, 2008
  • An article in the Ithacan entitled "Study finds eastern colleges often conceal campus crime"
  • The lyrics of 2 Live Crew's album As Nasty As They Wanna Be


  • The article "Discouraging 'Objectionable' Music Content: Litigation, Legislation, Economic Pressure, and More Speech" found in Communications & the Law, April 2003, that discusses 2 Live Crew's lyrics.
  • Cynthia Scheibe's doctoral dissertation on the developmental differences in children's reasoning about Santa Claus


  • An article in Parents Magazine discussing experts' views on the harm of lying to children about Santa Claus
  • The text of Barack Obama's keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, found in The New York Times


  • A 2004 editorial in The New York Times entitled "Everybody Loves Obama"


Lesson Plans / Sillabi

Lesson Plans - Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona

"The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona has assembled an impressive array of lesson plans and educational materials on topics related to the geographies and cultures of the Middle East. Organized in alphabetical order, here educators will find such fascinating guides as "100 Years in Mesopotamia: A Century of Conflict in Iraq, 1914-2014," "Afghanistan Through Youth Literature," and "All Roads Lead to Istanbul: 1550 World's Fair Simulation," among many others. The lesson plans are distinctive for their erudition and their appropriately complex treatment of historical and cultural subjects. Many of them feature PowerPoint presentations, primary sources, or other instructional guides to help lead high school and college students through the lessons"
[from The Scout Report -- Volume 22, Number 14]

Your Thesis & Library Research

Library research into what others have said and done is an essential first step, but the Honors Thesis goes beyond this to include a student's own insights and ideas, creative and critical thinking

  1. Create a rough timetable for your research and writing
  2. Plan for needed research for your thesis
  3. Establish research and reading list
  4. Draft bibliography (a list of reading you need to do to address the topic, i.e., background reading, criticism, historical sources, etc.)

Begin library research in the first semester (junior year) and continue it into the second semester. The research thesis or creative work typically begin in the second semester junior year and continues into the first semester of the senior year.


Use whatever form of bibliographic and footnote/endnote citation is required. This includes Internet and World Wide Web sources. The thesis advisors will provide students with the appropriate citation format.

Writing an Honors Thesis is different from writing just another research paper. What distinguishes an Honors Thesis from a research paper that might be written for a regular 3-credit course is the necessity for the student to go beyond what others have written and to think critically about the topic at hand.

  • First, it is a more substantial piece of work, both in terms of effort and length. Bear in mind, however, that there is no standard length (The student is expected to thoroughly cover the subject).
  • Second, the Honors Thesis tackles a problem (or part of a problem) that others have not yet addressed directly or adequately, or it approaches the problem or creative effort in a new way.