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At the beginning of a course, you will probably not know enough about the major scholarly topics that are of most importance in the field, the topics that are most well-covered in the secondary literature or the topics that have already had the life beaten out of them by successive generations of writers.You should begin by doing some general reading in the field.In your research, you should endeavor to get as close as possible to the events or phenomena you are studying.
In the best published social science writing you will be able to identify a clear how or why question at the heart of the research.
How and why questions are essential because they require the author to make an argument.
How do different electoral systems affect the behavior of political parties?
The point is that you should attempt to identify either: Professional social scientistshistorians, political scientists, sociologists, international affairs expertswork on both these kinds of questions.
There are, however, gradations of primary evidence.
The best sources are those in original languages that are linked to persons directly involved in the event or development that you are researching.
Primary sources in this case might include economic statistics, memoirs of politicians from the period or reportage in east European newspapers (available in English or other languages). You might also arrange an interview with an expert in the field: a noted scholar, a British government representative, a prominent journalist.
The point about primary sources is that they take you as close as possible to where the action isthe real, on-the-ground, rubber-meets-the-road facts from which you will construct your interpretive argument.
Think of it as a puzzle: Why did a particular political or social event turn out as it did and not some other way?
Why does a particular pattern exist in social life?