I've chosen my topic for my research paper, or I should say one of my research papers, for LIS 639 Information Literacy Pedagogy.
Instead of feeling a sense of freedom I felt scared to death I could choose anything. It froze me in my tracks for a good couple of weeks as I listed out topics both related to a professional library career and topics of interest to me personally, ones I could feel interested in enough to maintain fascination through the process. But now, finally, I've decided.
The topic of my paper is women during the Civil War – the Confederate side to be exact - and their experiences back at home, as seen through their diaries and letters. I'd be ecstatic if I found something written by one of my own ancestors, though the likelihood isn't all that high. Still, what I find will probably be typical of the general experience of women during this time in history.
I chose the topic mostly because my ancestors were on the southern side during the Civil War, and I've always been curious about what their lives would had been like. A part of me wonders how many of them rejected the idea of slavery, how many were torn between the patriotism of their fighting friends and relatives, and the fact the South was decidedly in the wrong.
The amount of material on the subject is staggering. I didn't expect that, but apparently a lot of women felt compelled to keep a journal of their experiences during the war. I've interlibrary loaned several books, and from checking the Newberry Library collection I found they have a wealth of possible sources. A trip downtown may be in order before this is all said and done.
I still need to come up with more of a specific, pinpoint focus, using one or two questions I'll answer within the paper. For one, I'll probably go with what I mentioned previously, where their sentiments lay – did they believe in the Confederacy or did their consciouses tell them the North was in the right. I suspect the greater majority will stand by the South, but it's possible that wasn't universally true. I plan to find out.
As for the second question (because there should be more than one, to create a more interesting and provocative paper) I'm not as sure. I've started a list, including things such as: what were the hardships they endured, what support systems did they have, how often did they communicate with their loved ones in the military, etc. But I haven't chosen anything yet. Any suggestions for a second, possibly related, research question would be more than welcome. So don't be shy if you have any ideas. Believe me, I'd appreciate any help I can get.
I'm looking forward to this paper, though finding time to read the sources – in addition to sources for other papers I'm working on – won't be easy. Most of these diaries are quite long. That's why I chose something I can really dig into, something highly interesting to me.
I'll post on my findings, since I suspect I'm not the only person interested in this subject. But don't be surprised if I take a while. I'll be drowning in research over the next couple of months. And this is one of the few cases in which drowning is actually a good thing.
And so it begins.