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History of the Health Sciences : Terms

Historical Research Terms

 Historical Research Terms Defined      

  • Primary resources: Journal articles, books, diaries, photographs, reports, etc., created or written during the time being studied.
    For Example: If you are writing on the history of TB treatment in the 1920s, the books and journal articles written by health professionals between 1920 and 1930, as well as the brochures from TB sanitariums published between 1920 and 1930 would be primary material.

  • Secondary resources: Works written after the original time period that interpret or analyze an event, theme or subject.
    For Example: A book entitled, The History of Tuberculosis in Wisconsin 1870-1930, is a secondary resource that used primary sources, like letters, journal articles and newspaper articles, to find evidence for its story.

  • Historiography: Historical scholarship done on a subject.
    For Example: Until the late 1970s/early 1980s, there was little on the subject of blacks or women in the history of health care. As new sensibilities or new resources come to light, the historiography on a subject may change.

  • Presentism: Application of one's own sensibilities to a historical topic.
    For Example: When reading racial epitaphs voiced in the 1950s the reader must appreciate the times in which the language was used. While it does not excuse the behavior, it does add context to how a pattern may have developed and what lessons it can teach us about today's climate in health care, politics, economics, etc.

Library Terms

Some other terms that might be useful...          

  • Database: An online resource that provides citations to journal, magazine and newspaper material. They often provide the actual article as well, which is called Full Text.
  • Bibliographic citation (often simply called citation) consists of the author, title of article, title of newspaper, journal or magazine, volume and pages. This citation can be used in your paper's footnote, if you use the materials as evidence within your paper. The citation will link either to FindIT or to a PDF.
  • FindIT will indicate an online full text version, or link you to the Library Catalog to see if the original journal or newspaper is on campus. You would then go to the library to get the material and scan or copy the article.
  • Evidence: Sources that provide facts, background, and commentary on the person, theme or period you are studying. When you have a line of inquiry like, "The Role of Public Education in Stemming the Tide of Tuberculosis," newspaper articles that talk about a campaign in the schools to educate people regarding hygiene would be evidence for your study.
  • Resources/Material: Generic terms librarians/historians use to describe all the books, journals, newspapers, databases, sheets of music, plays, and videos -- the stuff needed to write a research paper.
  • The Library Catalog: The UW-Madison online library catalog. The Library Catalog is for primary and secondary books or journal and magazine titles in the UW system. The Library Catalog does not contain journal or magazine content. Databases (see above) may contain content.
  • WorldCat: WorldCat links to books, journal and magazine titles in libraries all over the world. If the resource you need is not in the UW system, you can borrow it using interlibrary loan.