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HIST481: Histories of Oceania I: Welcome!

Thinking About Keywords

Keywords are the terms that researchers use to run searches in databases. These terms distill your research question down to a few essential words. There are many ways to come up keywords -- when doing research that relates to the Pacific Islands, one potential strategy is to use one word that describes the subject of your research, and another word that identifies the place you are researching. For instance, if you just search for "education" in a library database, you will literally get a million results. But if you search "education" and "Samoa," you will narrow your results down to information that relates to education in Samoa. If, on the other hand, you are interested in education of Samoan youth in Hawaii, you might consider using three terms: "education," "Samoan," and "Hawaii." Ultimately, keyword searching involves a bit of skill, a bit of patience and a lot of trial and error -- but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. As a general rule of thumb, if you are getting too many results, this usually means you need to refine your search by coming up with additional keywords; if you are getting too few results, you are either using too many keywords, or need to come up with different terms. This website includes some excellent advice on how to brainstorm keywords.

Team Project

The Team Project provides an opportunity for students to work in groups (atleast 4 students per group) to analyze and deliberate upon a historical trend relating to topics such as orality, voyaging, settlement, gender and power, land, exchange, cross-cultural encounter, epidemic disease and colonial violence, early colonization, Indigenous resistance, and the contemporary resurgence of Indigenous approaches to history. The team project will allow students to explore more in-depth a particular historical topic. Each team is required to do the following: 

  1. Select a topic in one region in the Pacific (Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia). Outline team structure: identify topic and provide a written outline of the role of each team member - anticipated input and output for each member. Present this in class in Week 3. (25 points)

  2. Collect primary and secondary sources relating to the topic. The team must find at least any four of these primary sources: historical writing (i.e speech, memoir, letter etc); newspaper (article covering an aspect or some aspect of your protest movement); piece of legislation/court rule/government document - find piece of legislation/law or policy or government document that showed changed as result of the influence of your protest movement; photograph/image - showing an aspect or some aspect of your protest movement; song/lyrics/audio file - covering an aspect or some aspect of your protest movement; other sources (eg. flag, map, poster etc). 

  3. In Week 9 each team will do a class power presentation on what archival sources they have collected, how they have collected those sources, and what is the importance of those sources to their topic. (25 points).

  4. Teams analyze the documents and primary sources collected and prepare PowerPoint featuring the primary sources with correct citations for class presentations in Weeks 14 and 15 (100 points). ** submit a copy of the PowerPoint to the professor after the team presentation**

Thinking Critically About Perspective

For any given research topic, there are numerous potential sources of information. When evaluating the quality of different types of resources, think about the different perspectives, voices and types of resources you could include in your final research project. This will help to determine the level of analysis and depth of understanding you could expect to achieve in relation to your selected topic. Thinking on this level will help you to generate more texture in your project too — combining different perspectives, voices, and types of material (including images, information from academic, journalistic, and other literary sources), will make your project more interesting for you and your audience. These questions may help you to identify different perspectives and voices:

1. Who is the author? What is her or his point of view? Why do you trust or distrust this point of view?

2. In your sources, where are the indigenous voices?

3. Where are the voices of scholars and other analysts?

4. Often information on a topic is a conversation of many voices — which voices should be part of your conversation? Are they all represented in your sources of information?

Primary and Secondary Sources

Distinguishing between "primary" and "secondary" sources can initially be confusing, but there are some relatively straightforward ways to tell the difference (although it should be noted that there are always exceptions to these rules--when in doubt, ask your instructor ... or a librarian!):

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or time period. They represent original thinking, reports on discoveries or events, or they can share new information. Often these sources are created at the time the events occurred. 

Secondary sources involve analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of primary sources, and are usually created some time after the events in question took place. They often attempt to describe, explain or distill primary sources of information.

Some examples of primary Hawai'i- and Pacific-related resources include:

  • diaries, correspondence, ships' logs

  • 18th and 19th century published voyaging accounts;

  • interviews, speeches, oral histories, autobiographies

  • government documents

  • creative art works, literature

  • newspaper articles and advertisements

  • photographs

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • textbooks

  • dictionaries and encyclopedias

  • biographies

  • scholarly writing (theses and dissertations, or journal articles

  • writing about literature, art works or music

Examples of sources that are sometimes primary source and sometimes secondary source materials:

  • Newspapers: An article published in 1893 regarding the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom is a primary source document (because it was written at the time the events it discusses were unfolding); an article published 50 years later, which is either written by someone who was witness to the events of 1893 or includes interviews with people who were there, is a also a primary source document (because it includes first-hand information, being published for the first time). An article on the same subject published in 2020 is a secondary source, which (if the author is a good historian) would rely on primary source documents to recreate the history of those events. For more on newspapers, click here.)
  • Early maps: Maps can sometimes be considered a primary source, in that they can document events as they were unfolding, in the same way a newspaper article can sometimes be a primary source. (For more on maps, click here.)