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American Studies

Online Reference Sources

General Information


The Research and Reference guide provides basic information for getting started and understanding research in the college environment:

Beginning your Research on an American Studies Topic

Topic Finding and Thesis Formation

  • Follow your interest AND pay particular attention to the assignment you have been given. Make sure you understand what your Professor is asking for before diving into your research. 
  • Note some topics that interest you and then play around with narrowing and broadening these topics. For example, if I liked the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I could investigate him, the broader topic of Transcendentalism, or the narrower topic of how one of his works - like Society and Solitude - was received.
  • Look for tensions, anomalies and unanswered questions.
  • What assumptions have been made in previous scholarship surrounding this topic?
  • What critical approaches have and haven't been taken with this topic?
  • Look for ways you can situate an argument within the context of a larger argument, or in opposition to another argument. 
  • Realize that the scope and focus of your topic will change the more information you locate, read, and analyze. Your preliminary research should help you figure out which aspects of your broader topic you are truly interested in focusing on; in later research, you can hone in on this narrow topic. 

Initial Exploration

  • Encyclopedias that focus on history, culture, and literature including the online/print reference sets listed on this page.
  • Google (Scholar, Web, Images, Books)
  • OxyWorldCat

Writing and Research Resources

Historical Research and Writing 

Evidence explained : citing history sources from artifacts to cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills. D5 .M55 2009 

Writing History: A guide for students by William Kelleher Storey. D16 .S864 2004 

Literary Research and Writing 

The art of literary research by Richard D. Altick and John J. Fenstermaker. PR56 .A68 1993 

General Writing and Research Resources

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) guides