Secondary sources represent the viewpoint of observers. Observations of the author are filtered through analysis and are subjected to the editorial process. Editors employed by reputable publishers examine an author's research, weigh his credentials and request clarification or substantiation of claims made. This is particularly true of informational non-fiction texts and of scholarly journals, where oftentimes the editors are the academic peers of the authors.
As a researcher, you use these sources to construct, compare, and analyze different interpretations of historical events. Be sure to establish credibility by considering the author's credentials and the research and publication processes employed.
Considering published books...
Published non-fiction books represent an author's research and analysis of both information and ideas. And, while different authors may draw varying conclusions regarding the information being considered, the analysis each offers will provide the reader an opportunity to engage in the same exercise of consideration and analysis. When selecting books for reliability of information, consider
the author's credentials
the author's research process (evident in citations and indexing)
Use the library's online catalog and other book location tools to locate useful titles.
Library Catalog Search
Type your keywords below and click the appropriate search type button. Results will pop up in a seperate window. Note that hitting the enter will not generate search results.
Our MGHS ebook collection is growing. We choose titles that will provide you with 24/7 access to the same information published in print and generally not available on the open web. Our ebooks are housed on four platforms, each accessible.
You can search our ebooks on your devices and tablets. Just download the apps!
Google has digitized over 1,000,000 books in the public domain. You can read them online or, in some cases, download a PDF or EPUB format. Choose the limiter "full view only" through the advanced search to filter out partial titles. Click here to search Google Books.
Learning from documentaries...
Documentaries, broadcast or online, represent an additional secondary text that can be valuable to your research. Look for affiliation with reputable producers (such as The History Channel) and the sponsorship of respected organizations and foundations.
American Experience: D-Day (PBS)
This PBS American Experience D-Day film is told entirely with rare archival footage and the voices of 43 people who were there. The special features of the companion web site include the "Did You Know?" section to learn about landing craft, battle reporting, the vast scale of the invasion, and what the "D" stands for; "Voices of D-Day" where the battle's fliers, the men who landed on Normandy's beaches, and German soldiers tell their stories; "Hot Off the Presses" where you can read a newspaper account and Americans' reactions to news of the D-Day assault; "Paratroopers" or soldiers who dropped behind enemy lines; and "Letters from the Front," first-hand accounts of soldiers' experiences after D-Day.
This PBS American Experience site relates the story of an elite Ranger battalion that went 30 miles behind enemy lines in the Philippines in 1944 to rescue 500 survivors of the Bataan death march who were held captive by the Japanese. There are interviews with liberated POWs, a tour inside a Ranger training camp, a teacher's guide, and more.
July 1942: United We Stand (Smithsonian Institute)
Online documentary of the media campaign launched to galvanize the American people after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
National War Museum's Focus On Series
Explore these online exhibits, complete with informational text and links to artifacts/primary source documents.
People of War (National Archives)
The Perilous Fight: America's World War II in Color
This PBS site is a companion to its program of the same name. It includes color photographs and videos that were shot to document the war.
The Price of Freedom: Americans at War
This Smithsonian website skillfully integrates Flash video and text to examine armed conflicts involving the U.S. from the Revolutionary War to the war in Iraq. Each conflict contains a brief video clip, statistical information, and a set of artifacts. There is also a Civil War mystery, an exhibition self-guide, and a teacher's guide. The World War II section contains an introductory movie and short essay on the conflict as well as historic images and artifacts.
Some of the most impressive technology advancements of the modern era occured during World War II and the National World War II Memorial has 8000 objects directly related to science and technology. This impressive exhibit contains an animated timeline, activities (such as sending encrypted messages), expert audio responses to science and technology questions, lesson plans, a quiz, essays, and more. An impressive presentation.
The War (PBS)
PBS companion website to the broadcast documentary of the same name, directed by Burns and Novak. Includes resource links and more.
Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers, and Broadcasters During World War II Activities of eight women in World War II. This exhibit tells the story of eight different women who participated as journalists, broadcasters, and photographers during World War II. The women featured in this exhibit were chosen because of the strength and variety of their collections in the Library of Congress.
Use periodical resources...
Many magazines today offer partial or full archives of past issues online. Which of these titles may have information related to your topic?
American History Magazine Online
America in World War II Magazine Online
Aviation History Magazine Online
Boy's Life Archives (on Google Books)
HistoryToday Magazine Archives
Life Magazine Archives (on Google Books)
Military History Magazine Online
Popular Science Archives (on Google Books)
Time Magazine Archives Online
World War II Magazine Online
You can also use EBSCO Databases (via Badgerlink) to search 1000's of full text articles published in periodicals over the years. Try these databases:
Master File Premier
Military and Government Collection
History Reference Center
Humanities International Complete
Want to search them all at once. Go to EBSCOHost (hosted by Wisconsin Badgerlink) and select these three databases before proceeding to a search.
Google Books not only offers access to books, but also to an extensive archives of many magazine back issues. Want to search Google Books for magazines? Use the advanced search feature!
What about self-published work?
In the last two decades, technology has made both online and print publication more affordable and possible for anyone with access to a computer. Think about it: Everytime you tweet or post to facebook, you are, in fact, publishing to an audience.
Now, more than in previous times, it is important for the researchers to carefully consider the credibility of the information sources they use. Consider the following often cited WWII resources:
CASE 1: The Encyclopedia of the Second World War appears to be a tertiary reference source.
The work is well organized and covers a broad scope of information related to the topic of World War II.
The work has been "published" by Spartacus Educational.
The articles are heavily hyperlinked, indicating bibliographic connections.
However, on deeper examination, it becomes clear that:
This is the work of an individual author and historian, John Simpkin.
Simpkin is also the creator of the publishing entity, Spartacus Education.
The hyperlinks generally link to content within the source, itself, rather than serving as bibliographic links to sources cited.
Despite Simpkin's impressive academic credentials, the nature of this work is more secondary than tertiary in nature. It would be prudent to subject this work to the same scrutiny we submit any secondary source. Compare the information to that found in alternativer sources and look for evidence of sources cited in preparing the information within.
CASE 2: The World War 2 Database was created by C. Peter Chen, a self-proclaimed amateur historian. Chen notes that his original intent in creating the database was to showcase his real expertise in software engineering. Again, despite the scope of the project, it is important that the student researcher submit information found here to careful scrutiny. Look for biblographic references in order to determin credibility.
Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin
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