The Challenges of my Research-Wayne

Posted: September 20, 2012 in Wayne Duerkes

The complexity of the research project that I am undertaking has been exhilarating, but at the same time, it has presented some expected and unexpected challenges.  The expected challenges are all part of the process of conducting research and the college experience. Examples include: unfamiliarity with a new aspect of history, heavy and tired eyes consuming reels of microfilm, and pouring through box after box of archival material only to discover all the fascinating items that I had just spent hours digging through have no use in my present project. I have come to the realization that these challenges are “par for the course” for a historian, and I have actually come to enjoy these experiences.

However, it is the unexpected challenges that have really tested me; and this project has presented me with a whopper. What is funny about the challenge is that every history professor that I have encountered has warned me about it.  That challenge is: historiographical debate. I had some knowledge of historiography prior to this specific project. But looking back, I must admit, it was mostly leaning heavily to one side. It became predictably easy. However, in the case of my present research, the predictability and ease are gone. The debate as to whether or not frontier settlers in the mid-1800s moved to western locales, such as Illinois, based solely on capitalistic intentions  is a major source of contention amongst historians.  Both sides have convincing arguments in support of their respective points of view. Academia has proven that historiography is alive and well by introducing a third theory, which describes the period as more transitional between the two.  The challenge that I face is to attempt to wrap my head around the different viewpoints, calculate where my research best fits in this debate, and then meld it within the scope of its broader context.

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