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Choosing a Topic

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Worksheet on Choosing a Topic

  1. Briefly describe the library research that you did towards choosing a topic. Include at least two reference books that you used and three library card catalog subject headings that you found useful.
For my topic I was hoping to investigate whether John Steinbeck in some ways created a historical myth about the Oklahoma people’s plight in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath written to represent a typical Oklahoman family during the migration to California and the life they found there.  The library has proven to be very useful for sources.  There are numerous books on the Okie migration to California.  The Dust Bowl, California, Migration, and Oklahoma are good subject headings to look through.  I also hope to research more on Steinbeck and the reception of The Grapes of Wrath.
  1. Briefly describe the internet research that you did. What words did you google successfully? Name at least one useful website. Do not include web based library card catalogs in this section.

The internet search has been patchy.  Due to the fact that The Grapes of Wrath is a fictional novel there is a lot to say on the book both in a literary sense and a historical sense.  This webpage I found “The Dust Bowl Migration” will be very useful.  It seems to be a self-promoting webpage to a Professor at Washington University, James Gregory.  The page shows his books very clearly which I will look up in the library.

  1. You should talk to at least one member of this history department about your topic, or at least an expert in your field. Name that expert and briefly describe his/her comments.

I met with Professor Moon who was not totally behind my paper topic.  She pointed out that what I’m trying to propose would be difficult because I am trying to point out that a work of fiction is historically inaccurate.  I respect her opinion but I disagree.   Historical fiction writers should be held accountable for writing things that are historically inaccurate.  Steinbeck wanted to portray the average Oklahoman family in his novel and he did it beautifully but there were things that were exaggerated or simply wrong.

  1. You must have a primary source for this paper.  Provide any pertinent information on that primary source including website and/or call number


  1. Are enough secondary sources available on this topic? Tell me a bit about what you found.

There are quite a few secondary sources on my topic.  Most of them are not so good, just descriptive books on what it was like in Oklahoma and California but others are better.  My Monograph is spot on and looking on google scholar there are many more sources from the library that I am going to look into.

  1. Finally, describe your conversations with me about your topic and how your topic has evolved as a result.

The conversations I have had with Prof. Al-Trikriti have been beneficial.  We realize it will be difficult to try to compare a novel to real historical facts.  Novels are just that, novels.  Fiction and melodramas for those in search of history but with a need a relatable story behind it.  I am one of those people who need the story and therefore I feel able to also dig for the facts and the flaws.  As how my topic has evolved, I realize that in some ways the plight of the okies was just unfortunate timing.  There is something to be said about how the wage rates would have gone up if it were not for the influx of okie migrant workers.  There were factors that were coming into play that not even Steinbeck could have seen because only those looking back can trace the correlations.

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