Not exactly a syllabus but a plan of action
Each of you needs to think about a particular topic, time, place, issue of childhood that you would like to start investigating. It may well be that as the semester progresses you refine or shift your topic—and individual topics may not work well for any given research tool/method/source—but I think you will get the most out of this course if you pick an area of research to start with that seems likely to interest you for a long while, and for those of you who are considering doing thesis work next year it is an excellent plan to use this course to get yourself started.
We will meet next Tuesday Jan 31 in Webster 102—a room with lots of computers—and will work with periodical and newspaper databases.
By this Friday afternoon, Jan 27, you need to have come up with a research idea, you are welcome to bounce ideas off me if you like (by email or stop by my office, I will be here from 2:30-5:30 tomorrow). Let me know what you are planning to work on so that I can find good periodical databases for that project. Once you have picked a topic you will want to find 3 scholarly articles or book chapters that will help you to think about the issues involved and get the benefit of other scholar’s research on this issue.
The Amherst College Library homepage is the best place to start.
For books on the “Catalog” tab searching by “keywords anywhere” or “subject keywords” will help you find relevant material, and if you go to that shelf the books around the title you found are likely to have useful information as well.
For articles click on the “Databases” tab, choosing databases by subject is usually a good strategy. Some of the most helpful databases depending on your topic are likely to be:
Academic OneFile (1980 to present)
Full-text articles from all disciplines.
Academic Search Premier (date coverage varies)
Full-text articles from over 3,600 journals in the social sciences, arts and humanities, and sciences.
America: History & Life (1964 to present)
Covers the world's scholarly literature on the history and culture of the United States and Canada.
IBSS: International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (1951 to present)
Indexes about 3,000 journals and 7,000 books per year.
Historical Abstracts (1955 to present)
Scholarly literature about world history since 1450 (excluding the United States and Canada).
ERIC (1966 to present)
Covers research documents, journal articles, technical reports, program descriptions and evaluations, and curricular materials in the field of education.
Political Science Abstracts (1975 to present)
Covers international journals in political science and its complementary fields.
MLA International Bibliography (1926 to present)
Covers critical scholarship on literature, language, linguistics, and folklore.
If you know the title/source of the article you are looking for your best bet may well be to go straight to
Full-text backfiles of over one thousand leading academic journals across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
You may need to play with your search terms for a while before you find ones that really pull up material that is of interest to you. Once you find one article on your topic (especially a recent one, so go to the most recent first) its footnotes will help you find other relevant material.
Your assignment for our next class is to have picked a topic and find three articles or book chapters (secondary material) that address it and at least skimmed them. Then we will work in class to see how you can use periodical databases to find primary sources, and ideally children’s perspectives, or information that will help you get closer to that.
Then for the next week you will work with periodical databases to find relevant material for your topic. We will share key finds with each other and the readings for Feb 7th will be your classmates’ periodical clippings and each of you will produce as well a 1-2 page discussion of what you have found that starts to frame the questions at stake. What is interesting here?!