The study of humanities opens you up to a whole world of subjects including art, language and culture. When writing a research paper for your humanities class, the hardest part of your task may be in choosing the focus of your paper from the many possible term paper topics. Here are a few ideas and resources to help you complete your humanities term papers.
Search for a topic
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary describes the humanities as the study of “branches of learning such as philosophy, arts or languages.” TheFreeDictionary.com adds that humanities include the study of branches of knowledge that are “concerned with human thought and culture” such as literature and liberal arts. That covers a lot of ground!
You could even bring history into the mix by exploring the arts or literature within a particular period of time such as the classical period, which occurred in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Then again, your interests might take you to faraway lands where you delve into the study of Asian art or literature. The possibilities seem endless.
Where do you begin when faced with so many juicy topics? A great one-stop spot for checking out topics and the resources that can help you write your paper is Questia, the world’s largest online library. At Questia you’ll have access to thousands of full-text books and articles on hundreds of subjects.
What you can find
Here’s an example of the kind of gold you can find from the motherlode that is Questia. A search within the category of “women in the middle ages” will reward you with hundreds of books and articles on the subject. Among them is the book, Medieval Women’s Visionary Literature by Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff.
In the introduction to the text, Petroff said this regarding the study of women’s literature, “One answer is that we study writers for what they tell us of the human condition, for what they reveal of human creativity and the uses of language; and we study women writers for the same reasons.”
You could easily accomplish all of your research on Questia but no doubt you’ll also want to do some Google searches to see what else you can find. Despite the fact that you’re practically attached to your laptop and cell phone, most college instructors are convinced that students don’t really understand how to use digital sources for research.
Steve Kolowich discussed these concerns in his January 27, 2012 post for InsideHigherEd.com titled, “Behind the Digital Curtain.” Because instructors worry that students may miss out on finding and then understanding the best resources for their term papers, the practice known as digital humanities is gaining traction at colleges and universities.
“Digital humanities projects often have to do with painstakingly translating primary documents into languages of computer programs, then teaching computer programs to read those documents (really, really fast) and flag certain words or patterns,” Kolowich said.
So, don’t be surprised if your instructors have you participate in a digital humanities project where you learn how to encode and transcribe documents into a machine-readable format and then write an essay about what you learned. If you do, then you might want to check out a wiki site titled The Dirt. The Dirt site has all sorts of tools and resources to help you do your research. A site called CodeAcademy will teach you how to do your coding.
Reading about art and culture is one thing, but seeing it in images really brings the subject to life. At The Creator’s Project you’ll find articles and a gallery of images and videos on film, art, design, gaming, fashion and music.
One example is a blog post by Kevin Holmes on February 7, 2012 titled, “Exploring Chaos And Order: Q&A With Kinetic Sculptor Balint Bolygo.” Holmes takes you into the world of this contemporary artist and helps you to really understand his art.
Holmes explained, “He creates his work from a concept rather than having a complete blueprint and this sense of excitement, wonder, and discovery in the making process is passed on to the viewer. The artwork itself becomes a process, a journey unfolding over a period of time.”
Other humanities resources
Find a comfy chair and settle in because there’s a lot more to explore all across the web.
- The Illinois Humanities Council at prairie.org
- The EServer: a digital humanities venture with over 35,000 works.
- The Library of Congress Performing Arts Encyclopedia
- Voice of the Shuttle: over 70 pages of links to humanities resources
- American Association of Museums