The Historical Approach to ResearchFrom http://www.gslis.utexas.edu/~palmquis/courses/historical.htmThe process of learning and understanding the background and growth of a chosen field of study or profession canoffer insight into organizational culture, current trends, and future possibilities. The historical method of researchapplies to all fields of study because it encompasses their: origins, growth, theories, personalities, crisis, etc. Bothquantitative and qualitative variables can be used in the collection of historical information. Once the decision ismade to conduct historical research, there are steps that should be followed to achieve a reliable result. CharlesBusha and Stephen Harter detail six steps for conducting historical research (91): 1. the recognition of a historical problem or the identification of a need for certain historical knowledge. 2. the gathering of as much relevant information about the problem or topic as possible. 3. if appropriate, the forming of hypothesis that tentatively explain relationships between historical factors. 4. The rigorous collection and organization of evidence, and the verification of the authenticity and veracity of information and its sources. 5. The selection, organization, and analysis of the most pertinent collected evidence, and the drawing of conclusions; and 6. the recording of conclusions in a meaningful narrative.There are a variety of places to obtain historical information. Primary Sources are the most sought after in historicalresearch. Primary resources are first hand accounts of information. “Finding and assessing primary historical datais an exercise in detective work. It involves logic, intuition, persistence, and common sense…(Tuchman, Gaye inStrategies of Qualitative Inquiry, 252). Some examples of primary documents are: personal diaries, eyewitnessaccounts of events, and oral histories. “Secondary sources of information are records or accounts prepared bysomeone other than the person, or persons, who participated in or observed an event.” Secondary resources can bevery useful in giving a researcher a grasp on a subject and may provided extensive bibliographic information fordelving further into a research topic.Historical MethodFrom http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_methodThe historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and otherevidence, such as secondary sources and tertiary sources, to research and then to write history. The question of thenature, and indeed the possibility, of sound historical method is raised in the philosophy of history, as a question ofepistemology. The following summarizes the history guidelines commonly used by historians in their work, underthe headings of external criticism, internal criticism, and synthesis.External criticism: authenticity and provenanceGarraghan divides criticism into six inquiries
1. When was the source, written or unwritten, produced (date)? 2. Where was it produced (localization)? 3. By whom was it produced (authorship)? 4. From what pre-existing material was it produced (analysis)? 5. In what original form was it produced (integrity)? 6. What is the evidential value of its contents (credibility)?The first four are known as higher criticism; the fifth, lower criticism; and, together, external criticism. The sixthand final inquiry about a source is called internal criticism.R. J. Shafer on external criticism: "It sometimes is said that its function is negative, merely saving us from usingfalse evidence; whereas internal criticism has the positive function of telling us how to use authenticated evidence."Higher criticismR. J. Shafer writes, "Determination of authorship and date involves one or all of the following: (a) content analysis,(b) comparison with the content of other evidence, (c) tests of the physical properties of the evidence." Contentanalysis includes examinations of anachronisms in language, datable references, and consistency with a culturalsetting. Comparison with other writings may involve palaeography, the study of style of handwriting, the study ofstylometry and comparison of literary style with known authors, or something as simple as a reference to thedocuments author in another one of his works or by a contemporary. Physical properties include the properties ofthe paper, the consistency of the ink, and the appearance of a seal, as well as the results of radioactive carbon dating.Lower criticismLower criticism is more frequently known as "textual criticism," and it is concerned with determining an accuratetext in cases where we have copies instead of the original. Approaches to textual criticism include eclecticism,stemmatics, and cladistics. At the heart of eclecticism is that one should adopt the reading as original that mosteasily explains the derivation of the alternative readings. Stemmatics attempts to construct a "family tree" of extantmanuscripts to help determine the correct reading. Cladistics makes use of statistical analysis in a similar endeavor.Internal criticism: historical reliabilityNoting that few documents are accepted as completely reliable, Louis Gottschalk sets down the general rule, "foreach particular of a document the process of establishing credibility should be separately undertaken regardless ofthe general credibility of the author." An authors trustworthiness in the main may establish a background probabilityfor the consideration of each statement, but each piece of evidence extracted must be weighed individually.Eyewitness evidenceR. J. Shafer offers this checklist for evaluating eyewitness testimony: 1. Is the real meaning of the statement different from its literal meaning? Are words used in senses not employed today? Is the statement meant to be ironic (i.e., mean other than it says)? 2. How well could the author observe the thing he reports? Were his senses equal to the observation? Was his physical location suitable to sight, hearing, touch? Did he have the proper social ability to observe: did he understand the language, have other expertise required (e.g., law, military); was he not being intimidated by his wife or the secret police?
3. How did the author report?, and what was his ability to do so? 1. Regarding his ability to report, was he biased? Did he have proper time for reporting? Proper place for reporting? Adequate recording instruments? 2. When did he report in relation to his observation? Soon? Much later? 3. What was the authors intention in reporting? For whom did he report? Would that audience be likely to require or suggest distortion to the author? 4. Are there additional clues to intended veracity? Was he indifferent on the subject reported, thus probably not intending distortion? Did he make statements damaging to himself, thus probably not seeking to distort? Did he give incidental or casual information, almost certainly not intended to mislead? 4. Do his statements seem inherently improbable: e.g., contrary to human nature, or in conflict with what we know? 5. Remember that some types of information are easier to observe and report on than others. 6. Are there inner contradictions in the document?Louis Gottschalk adds an additional consideration: "Even when the fact in question may not be well-known, certainkinds of statements are both incidental and probable to such a degree that error or falsehood seems unlikely. If anancient inscription on a road tells us that a certain proconsul built that road while Augustus was princeps, it may bedoubted without further corroboration that that proconsul really built the road, but would be harder to doubt that theroad was built during the principate of Augusutus. If an advertisement informs readers that A and B Coffee may bebought at any reliable grocers at the unusual price of fifty cents a pound, all the inferences of the advertisementmay well be doubted without corroboration except that there is a brand of coffee on the market called A and BCoffee."Garraghan says that most information comes from "indirect witnesses," people who were not present on the scenebut heard of the events from someone else. Gottschalk says that a historian may sometimes use hearsay evidence. Hewrites, "In cases where he uses secondary witnesses, however, he does not rely upon them fully. On the contrary, heasks: (1) On whose primary testimony does the secondary witness base his statements? (2) Did the secondarywitness accurately report the primary testimony as a whole? (3) If not, in what details did he accurately report theprimary testimony? Satisfactory answers to the second and third questions may provide the historian with the wholeor the gist of the primary testimony upon which the secondary witness may be his only means of knowledge. In suchcases the secondary source is the historians original source, in the sense of being the origin of his knowledge.Insofar as this original source is an accurate report of primary testimony, he tests its credibility as he would that ofthe primary testimony itself."Oral traditionGilbert Garraghan maintains that oral tradition may be accepted if it satisfies either two "broad conditions" or six"particular conditions", as follows: 1. Broad conditions stated.
1. The tradition should be supported by an unbroken series of witnesses, reaching from the immediate and first reporter of the fact to the living mediate witness from whom we take it up, or to the one who was the first to commit it to writing. 2. There should be several parallel and independent series of witnesses testifying to the fact in question. 2. Particular conditions formulated. 1. The tradition must report a public event of importance, such as would necessarily be known directly to a great number of persons. 2. The tradition must have been generally believed, at least for a definite period of time. 3. During that definite period it must have gone without protest, even from persons interested in denying it. 4. The tradition must be one of relatively limited duration. [Elsewhere, Garraghan suggests a maximum limit of 150 years, at least in cultures that excel in oral remembrance.] 5. The critical spirit must have been sufficiently developed while the tradition lasted, and the necessary means of critical investigation must have been at hand. 6. Critical-minded persons who would surely have challenged the tradition — had they considered it false — must have made no such challenge.Other methods of verifying oral tradition may exist, such as comparison with the evidence of archaeologicalremains.More recent evidence concerning the potential reliability or unreliability of oral tradition has come out of fieldworkin West Africa and Eastern Europe.Synthesis: historical reasoningOnce individual pieces of information have been assessed in context, hypotheses can be formed and established byhistorical reasoning.Argument to the best explanationC. Behan McCullagh lays down seven conditions for a successful argument to the best explanation: 1. The statement, together with other statements already held to be true, must imply yet other statements describing present, observable data. (We will henceforth call the first statement the hypothesis, and the statements describing observable data, observation statements.) 2. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory scope than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must imply a greater variety of observation statements. 3. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory power than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must make the observation statements it implies more probable than any other. 4. The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.
5. The hypothesis must be less ad hoc than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must include fewer new suppositions about the past which are not already implied to some extent by existing beliefs. 6. It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false. 7. It must exceed other incompatible hypotheses about the same subject by so much, in characteristics 2 to 6, that there is little chance of an incompatible hypothesis, after further investigation, soon exceeding it in these respects.McCullagh sums up, "if the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large numberand variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true."Statistical inferenceMcCullagh states this form of argument as follows: 1. There is probability (of the degree p1) that whatever is an A is a B. 2. It is probable (to the degree p2) that this is an A. 3. Therefore (relative to these premises) it is probable (to the degree p1 × p2) that this is a B.McCullagh gives this example: 1. In thousands of cases, the letters V.S.L.M. appearing at the end of a Latin inscription on a tombstone stand for Votum Solvit Libens Merito. 2. From all appearances the letters V.S.L.M. are on this tombstone at the end of a Latin inscription. 3. Therefore these letters on this tombstone stand for Votum Solvit Libens Merito.This is a syllogism in probabilistic form, making use of a generalization formed by induction from numerousexamples (as the first premise).Argument from analogyThe structure of the argument is as follows: 1. One thing (object, event, or state of affairs) has properties p1 . . . pn and pn + 1. 2. Another thing has properties p1 . . . pn. 3. So the latter has property pn + 1.McCullagh says that an argument from analogy, if sound, is either a "covert statistical syllogism" or better expressedas an argument to the best explanation. It is a statistical syllogism when it is "established by a sufficient number andvariety of instances of the generalization"; otherwise, the argument may be invalid because properties 1 through nare unrelated to property n + 1, unless property n + 1 is the best explanation of properties 1 through n. Analogy,therefore, is uncontroversial only when used to suggest hypotheses, not as a conclusive argument.Historical comparative researchFrom http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_comparative_researchHistorical comparative research is the study of past events and questions using methods in sociology and othersocial scientific research to inform the possible outcomes and answers to current events and questions. Beginning in
the late 1950’s, the discipline of history became more linked with sociology. Eventually historical sociology wasaccepted as a more concrete perspective during the 1970’s. Historical investigations are based on the remnants of thepast called historical material, which include official documents, diaries and much more as is discussed below.Comparative sociology on the other hand, specifically looks at sociology across regions or nations. Historicalcomparative sociology differs from historical sociology by focusing only on three main issues. These issues arecausal relationships, processes over time, and comparisons. It does not allow interpretive approaches, whichhistorical sociology may favor in certain occasions.Major researchersLeading historical-comparative sociologist in America during the mid-1960s into the 1980s, predominantlyBarrington Moore, Jr., Charles Tilly and Theda Skocpol based their "theoretical insights" on Karl Marx, Weber andeven Alexis de Tocqueville over Durkheim. Durkheims work has important contributions to historical-comparativeresearch despite being looked over and dismissed, historically, in relation to this field. Scholars suggests thatDurkheims work on civil society, analyses of the family, schooling, professional bodies and the public sphere aidhistorical-comparative sociology and his work overall "sheds light" on some of the recurring issues in this field.Max Weber defined the early development of historical comparative research with his broad ranging comparisons ofreligious and economic systems around the world. For example, one of his most famous works The Religion ofChina: Confucianism and Taoism examines the cultural differences between China and that of Western Europe.Other examples of his work and comparisons of religions including Hinduism, and Ancient Judaism. Hepropositioned that Protestantism has "The Spirit of Capitalism". More recent major figures include BarringtonMoore whose work on the origins of different types of states inspired, notably by Theda Skocpol major book onstates and social revolutions. That research inspired some of the major substantive and methodological debates inhistorical research during recent decades. More recently, researchers including; Theda Skocpol, Summers, Kiser andHechter have argued about the theoretical basis of explanation in historical comparative research.MethodsThere are four major methods that researchers use to collect historical data. These are archival data, secondarysources, running records, and recollections. The archival data, or primary sources, are typically the resources thatresearchers rely most heavily on. Archival data includes official documents and other items that would be found inarchives, museums, etc. Secondary sources are the works of other historians who have written history. Runningrecords are “documentaries maintained by private or non profit organizations.” Finally recollections include sourcessuch as autobiographies, memoirs or diaries.There are four stages, as discusses by Schutt, to systematic qualitative comparative historical studies; (1)Development of the premise of the investigation, identifying events/concepts, etc that may explain the phenomena;(2) Choose the case(s) (location- nation, region) to examine (3) Using what Theda Skocpol has termed as"interpretive historical sociology" and examine the similarities and the differences; (4) finally based on theinformation gathered propose a casual explanation for the phenomena.The key issues in methods for historical comparative research stem from the incomplete nature of historical data, thecomplexity and scale of the social systems, and the nature of the questions asked. Historical data is a difficult set of
data to work with due to multiple factors. This data set can be very biased, such as diaries, memoirs, letters, whichare all influenced not only by the person writing them, that persons world view but can also, logically, be linked tothat individuals socioeconomic status. In this way the data can be corrupt/skewed. Historical data regardless orwhether it may or may not be biased (diaries vs. official documents) is also vulnerable to time. Time can destroyfragile paper, fade ink until it is illegible, wars, environmental disasters can all destroy data and special interestgroups can destroy mass amounts of data to serve a specific purpose at the time they lived, etc. Hence, data isnaturally incomplete and can lead social scientists to many barriers in their research. Often historical comparativeresearch is a broad and wide reaching topic such as how democracy evolved in three specific regions. Tracking howdemocracy developed is a daunting task for one country or region let alone three. Here the scale of the social system,which is attempting to be studied, is overwhelming but also the complexity is extreme. Within each case there aremultiple different social systems that can effect the development of a society and its political system. The factorsmust be separated and analyzed so that causality can be attained. It is causality that brings us to yet another key issuein methods for historical comparative research, the nature of the questions which are asked are attempting to proposecausal relationships between a set of variables. Determining causality alone is a difficult task; coupled with theincomplete nature of historical data and the complexity and scale of the social systems being used to examinecausality the task becomes even more challenging.Identifying featuresThe three identifying issues of historical comparative research are causal relationships, processes over time, andcomparisons. As mentioned above causal relationships are difficult to support although we make causalassumptions daily. Schutt discusses the five criteria, which must be met in order to have a causal relationship. Of thefive the first three are the most important: association, time order and non-spuriousness. Association simply meansthat between two variables; the change in one variable is related to the change in another variable. Time order refersto the fact that the cause (the independent variable) must be shown to have occurred first and the effect (thedependent variable) to have occurred second. Nonspuriousness says that the association between two variables is notbecause of a third variable. The final two criteria are; identifying a causal mechanism- how theconnection/association among variables is thought to have occurred- and the context in which this associationoccurs. The deterministic causal approach requires that in every study, the independent and dependent variable havean association, and within that study every case (nation, region) the independent variable has an effect on thedependent variable.John Stuart Mill devised five methods by which people are able to systematically analyze their observations andmake more accurate assumptions about causality. Mills Methods discusses; direct method of agreement, method ofdifference, joint method of agreement and difference, method of residues and method of concomitant variations.Some issues with this aspect of historical comparative research are that the Mills methods are typically the mostuseful when the causal relationship is already suspected and can therefore be a tool for eliminating otherexplanations.. Mills methods simply cannot provide proof that the variation in one variable was caused by thevariation of another variable.
Something about each of these three. How do we tell when we have sufficient evidence to impute a causalrelationship? How best can we model processes unfolding over time? On what basis can we identify appropriatecomparisons?DifficultiesThere are several difficulties that historical comparative research faces. James Mahoney, one of the current leadingfigures in historical comparative research, identifies several of these in his book "Comparative Historical Analysis inthe Social Sciences." Mahoney highlights key issues such as how micro level studies can be incorporated into themacro level field of historical comparative research, issues ripe for historical comparative research that continue toremain overlooked, such as law, and the issue of whether historical comparative research should be approached as ascience or approached as a history. This is one of the more prevalent debates today, often debated between ThedaSkocpol, who sides with the historical approach, and Kiser and Hechter, who are proponents of the scientific viewthat should search for general causal principles. Both Kiser and Hechter employ models within Rational ChoiceTheory for their general causal principles. Historical researchers that oppose them (Skocpol, Summers, others) arguethat Kiser and Hechter do not suggest many other plausible general theories, and thus it seems as though theiradvocacy for general theories is actually advocacy for their preferred general theory. They also raise other criticismsof using RCT in historical comparative research.Role of general theoryIn recent decades historical comparative researchers have debated the proper role of general theory. Two of the mainplayers in this debate have been Edgar Kiser and Michael Hechter. They have argued that it is important to use ageneral theory in order to be able to test the results of the research that has been conducted. They do not argue thatone specific theory is better than the other just that a theory needs to be used. Their chosen theory is rational choice.One of the main problems is that everyone has a different concept of what a theory is and what makes something atheory. Some of their opponents feel that any theory can be tested and they are arguing that some can not be. Kiserand Hecter do aknowledge that this is a growing field and that their perspective may change in the future.Resources for Understanding Historical ResearchMartha C. Howell and Walter Prevenier. 2001. From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods. Cornell University Press.Anthony Brundage. 2002. Going to the Sources: A Guide to Historical Research and Writing. Harlan Davidson.From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_methodGilbert J. Garraghan, A Guide to Historical Method, Fordham University Press: New York (1946). ISBN 0-8371- 7132-6.Louis Gottschalk, Understanding History: A Primer of Historical Method, Alfred A. Knopf: New York (1950). ISBN 0-394-30215-X.Martha Howell and Walter Prevenier, From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods, Cornell University Press: Ithaca (2001). ISBN 0-8014-8560-6.
C. Behan McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions, Cambridge University Press: New York (1984). ISBN 0- 521-31830-0.R. J. Shafer, A Guide to Historical Method, The Dorsey Press: Illinois (1974). ISBN 0-534-10825-3.From http://www.questia.com/library/history/historiography/historical-method.jsp?CRID=historical-method&OFFID=se2q&KEY=historical%20research%20methodJohn H. Arnold. History: A Very Short Introduction.Allan Nevins. The Gateway to History.R. Darcy, Richard C. Rohrs. A Guide to Quantitative History.Konrad H. Jarausch, Kenneth A. Hardy. Quantitative Methods for Historians: A Guide to Research, Data, and Statistics.Allen Johnson. The Historian and Historical Evidence.Alexander V. Riasanovsky, Barnes Riznik. Generalizations in Historical Writing.James D. Startt, Wm. David Sloan, Jennings Bryant. Historical Methods in Mass Communication.Graeme Snooks. The Laws of History.Eva M. McMahan, Kim Lacy Rogers. Interactive Oral History Interviewing.Roger Adelson. Speaking of History: Conversations with Historians.Bernard J. Holm, James Thompson. A History of Historical Writing: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Seventeenth Century.Bernard J. Holm, James Thompson. A History of Historical Writing: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. From http://www.gslis.utexas.edu/~palmquis/courses/historical.htmBusha, Charles and Stephen P. Harter. Research Methods in Librarianship: techniques and Interpretations. Academic Press: New York, NY, 1980.Denzin, Norman K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln (editors). Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry. Sage Publications: London, 1998.Leming, Michael R. “Research And Sampling Designs: Techniques For Evaluating Hypotheses”. http://www.stolaf.edu/people/leming/soc371res/research.html,http://www.stolaf.edu/people/leming/soc371res/research.html. “Research and Sampling Designs: Techniques for Evaluating Hypotheses” Michael R. Leminghttp://www.msstate.edu/listarchives/afrigeneas/199708/msg00048.html Subject: Special issue of Prologue, on African American Historical Researchhttp://www2.wku.edu/library/dlps/histindx.htm. A list of library sources (at western Kentucky University) for beginning historical research. http://www2.wku.edu/library/dlps/histindx.htm. NARA homepagehttp://www.cortland.edu/www/history/research.html. Historical Research on the Internet. An extensive list of historical resources in all formats.
http://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/hum/hist-us/libs.htm. United States History Libraries and Archiveshttp://www.spertus.edu/library-history/. The Library History Roundtable