Take a deep breath … you’re writing a senior essay, not a dissertation or a book! Here are some thoughts on keeping the process manageable throughout the coming academic year.
First, it usually takes some time at the outset to define a specific research topic. Engage with the ideas and arguments of the sources you're finding and think about where you'd like to join the scholarly conversation. Remember that the research process will often take you in unexpected directions, and that the interplay between your research questions and the sources you unearth is a cornerstone of historical research. Give yourself time to allow that interplay to happen during your senior essay research!
Some books that might prove useful:
Every subject taught at Yale has a librarian assigned to it. A list of these librarians, or "subject specialists," can be found here.
Subject specialists curate subject guides that are a great starting point in finding resources on your potential research topic. The guides bring together the most useful and important resources that are available, whether encyclopedias, bibliographies or other "reference" works, databases of primary and secondary sources, archival materials in special collections, or freely available websites created by libraries, museums, and academic centers around the world.
On the first page of a subject guide, you will generally find substantial information on subject-specific databases and other library resources. Every subject librarian organizes their guides a little differently, but most follow this approach. While Quicksearch and even Google are valuable tools for research, for a senior thesis it is essential to engage with these specialized databases and resources to thoroughly mine what is available for use in the research. Bear in mind that the publishers who create the databases and reference sources don’t always give them meaningful names that help you to understand what the resource could be useful for. Take time to explore the subject guides as they are chock-full of information and help.
Reach out to a subject specialist if you have questions about getting started!
The Library Reopening FAQ contains the latest information and is updated regularly. Some key updates (Sept. 3, 2020):
For those authorized to be in the libraries, most general collections are open for browsing. The following reading rooms in Sterling Library are closed, with different ways to access collection materials:
Archives at Yale: Across the library system, special collections reading rooms will be open by appointment only. The "Guide to Using Special Collections at Yale University" has links to request appointments at special collections reading rooms. All researchers must make a reading room seat reservation online at least 24 hours before they plan to visit. The planned hours for each special collection reading room are:
• Arts Library Special Collections – Mon-Fri, 1:00-4:00 PM
• Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library – Mon-Fri, 9:00 AM-4:30 PM
• Divinity Library Special Collections – Mon-Fri, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM
• Lewis Walpole Library – Mon-Fri, 9:30 AM-4:00 PM
• Manuscripts and Archives – Mon-Fri, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM
• Medical Historical Library – Mon-Fri, 10 AM-Noon & 1:00-4:30 PM
Music Library special collections materials will be available for research use in the Manuscripts and Archives reading room.
For questions about library services for your Senior Essay, contact James Kessenides at firstname.lastname@example.org.