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HIS301: Historical Writing: Home

Navigating the University Archives for students in HIS301
Last Updated: Jan 8, 2024 4:09 PM

How to Use This Guide

Welcome to the University Archives! This guide is designed to:

1. Introduce you to archives and primary sources in the University Archives.

2. Present you with topic options for your Primary Source Close Analysis.

3. Help you navigate archival research.

You'll note that this guide includes tabs for the following topics: Campus Unrest, UB Athletics History, UB and World War II, Love Canal, and Black and African American-centered collections. Once you've identified a topic of interest, each topic tab includes a sampling of images, links to online resources, as well as a list of recommended archival collections. You can use this information to help identify a collection—and primary source within that collection—of interest for your Primary Source Close Analysis. Questions on your syllabus or project can be directed towards Dr. Sarah Handley-Cousins. Questions on the University Archives or archival research can be directed towards Jessica Hollister at


Joan Arhardt, Homecoming Queen, with Buster, UB Mascot, 1957



UB Women's Soccer players, 1982

From the Syllabus - Dr. Handley-Cousins


This class is all about how we communicate history: how historians communicate professionally with one another, how history is communicated to the general public, and how you can communicate your historical skills in your future career. This course will use the history of Buffalo and Western New York as a way of practicing the many different types of historical writing and strategizing ways to write history effectively and creatively. You will develop the essential skills of good historical writing: the ability to synthesize a wide variety of secondary information, construct nuanced interpretations of primary source material, formulate original historical arguments, and tell engaging, meaningful stories about the past. You will practice these four foundational areas (synthesis, analysis, argumentation, and narration) through a variety of informal and formal writing assignments, including responses, in-class writing, book reviews, and a capstone research essay. In addition, students will gain experience communicating their research and their professional skills orally and visually. 



For this assignment, you will write a close analysis of the primary source you chose during our visits to the Archives. You should be almost hyper-focused on your primary source. You may make an argument, but it should be directly related to your source - in other words, you can argue for a particular interpretation of your source, but I’m not looking for you to connect your source to historiography quite yet. Use the following questions (which we will discuss in class) to guide your thinking, but remember that your analysis cannot be in the form of answered questions. You must consolidate answers into a narrative about your source.
● Why did you choose this source? What do you hope to do with it? What can it help you argue or learn more about in your research paper?
● What is your source? Who created it?
● What surprises you about your source? Did it make you question any assumptions you brought with you to the source?
● How was this source used? How was it made?
● What biases does the source carry or raise?
● What’s the purpose of your source?
● Who is the audience for your source?
● What can or should a person learn from this source? What can this source teach us that we can’t get from other sources?
● Is there a larger historical moment or issue that this item connects to?


Student protest against Hooker Chemical at SUNY Buffalo, 1979

Student protest against Hooker Chemical at SUNY Buffalo, 1979

#Spectrum.9, Love Canal Images database