A Historian’s Guide to Researching and Archiving (Series Introduction)

A few weeks ago, a UA professor asked me to come speak to his qualitative research methods class, a requirement for first-year students in the LAS MA program. I spent an entire weekend compiling all of the research tips and tricks I’ve learned in my graduate studies. Many of these techniques are self-taught, but I also owe much of what I know to other graduate students, professors, Mary Feeney (the research librarian assigned History, among other topics) and Walter Brem (Bancroft Librarian Emeritus). My conversation with this group of first year graduate students prompted me to create this blog series, “A Historian’s Guide to Researching and Archiving,” where I’ll share the knowledge that I’ve learned and mistakes I’ve made.

Everyone (I say this loosely) knows the basic research process:

  • Select a topic
  • Locate primary and secondary sources
  • Data Management
  • Research Funding
  • Writing
  • Submission/Publication

However, the digital age forces researchers, especially historians, to rethink their approach to the research and writing process. Physical card catalogs are a rarity. Pen and paper, although still excellent tools, are no longer sufficient. Traveling to archives and sifting through boxes (cajas) and folders (carpetas) by hand is no longer necessarily requisite (depending on your project). Scholars can also share their research experiences and findings more easily than ever before via social media.

Fusing old standards with new technology to improve my research skills along my dissertation path serves as my primary goal. Follow along in the coming weeks as I discuss effective search techniques, the benefits and pitfalls of digital archives, and why you need (or should strongly consider) a database.

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