History 91

strategies & tools for doing research

fall 2018

Sarah Elichko

Jaenicke, Hannah. "Lines in the Sand: Deconstructing the Construction of the Indo-Pakistani Border." BA thesis, Haverford College. 2010.

As far as you can tell, how did Hannah access these primary sources?

material culture

(art, objects, buildings)

🎨 🛏️ 🕰️ 📮 🕌


government records
(reports, debates, transcripts of hearings)

🏛️ 🇧🇷 🗣️


personal papers

(letters, diaries, scrapbooks)

💌 📔 🏷️ 🗺️  

digital exhibits and collections
image databases
catalogs and books


library collections (print, online)
online databases
websites (.gov, Hathi Trust)


special collections (departments)
edited collections (books)
digital exhibits and collections

  primary source type/genre      where to find it

popular media

(newspapers, magazines, radio)

📰 📻 


specialized periodicals
(trade + scholarly journals)



organizational records

(office memos, meeting minutes)

🏢 🗒️ 📆 

scanned, searchable in databases
indexing for individual articles
print copies (in libraries)

online databases (scanned or indexed)
print copies (in libraries)


archives and special collections
online databases [example]
organizational websites (current, Wayback)

source type/genre            where to find it

➡️ Coggle.it

+ log in with Swarthmore Google account

create a "mind map" of your research ideas so far. what types of sources might be interesting to look for?

Tri-College Consortium

E-Z Borrow
Academic libraries
in PA, NJ, NY

InterLibrary Loan

Libraries all over
the world

   Penn      Drexel     Temple     NYU      Rutgers

  Swat          Haverford      Bryn Mawr

 Oxford              Columbia              Sciences Po  

Harvard       Stanford     Museum of Natural History

Library Resource Networks: What's Available to You


Books in

Go Beyond TriCo:

To find periodicals, books, music, films and more, use

Go to Worldcat.org > Advanced Search
Row 1: Change Keyword --> Subject, enter Newspapers
Row 2: Change Keyword --> Subject, enter (country name)

Borrowing Beyond TriCo

EZBorrow (books only)

Interlibrary Loan Form (books, microfilm, DVDs)

Article Request Form (chapters + articles)

Feeling overwhelmed? Check out the HIST 091 Research Guide



  • "Finding Primary Sources": where/how to look, broken down by source type
  • secondary sources: identifying previous scholarship on your topic + finding articles & monographs
  • tips for citing & organizing sources

"a deceptively modest name for a complex technology that has come to play an evidentiary role in scholarship"

- search

Ted Underwood, "Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago" (2014)

Now that you've identified some potential primary source genres, let's try finding some.


On the "Finding Primary Sources" page of the Research Guide, choose a type of primary source.


Following instructions & tips on these pages, spend 5 minutes looking for source(s) relevant to your own topic.

Okay, now get into groups with 2-3 other students. Spent 5 minutes discussing your results.

What did you find? What were you surprised to learn or find? What were the difficulties? Do you have any search tips to share?

Complexities of searching for historical sources...

"If, for example, I wanted to find out more about the island from which [Sir Walter] Raleigh penned his letter, what name should I keyword search? Saint Christopher, St. Christopher, Saint Christophe, St. Kitts, or San Christoval?"

Finding information on Providence Island in the AGI [Archivo General de Indias, in Sevilla] is impossible unless one knows that the Spanish referred to it as Santa Catalina."

• Multiple names +    

• Changes over time
• Varying spellings,


- Casey Schmitt, Love Letters and the Digital Turn (The Junto)

“The search terms I have chosen encode a tacit hypothesis...and I feel my hypothesis is confirmed when I get enough hits. “

-- Ted Underwood, "Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago" (2014)

Why does search matter?

“I’ve used algorithms to explore a big dataset, and the search process may well have shaped my way of framing the subject, or my intuitions about the representativeness of sources.”

What does this mean for you?

Think about the search terms you're using, and how they might be influencing what you find (and don't find).

Articulate a range of possible keywords and try them.

     (Background reading can be useful)

Pay attention (avoid searching by reflex)

      - How did the research tool use your search terms?

      - Can you adjust this?  (e.g. grouping terms)

Sources you already have:

• Go back to a primary or secondary source you found.

• Look for terms that you might expect to find in other relevant sources (primary or secondary).

• Add a branch to your Coggle/project map for search terms. Write these down terms as you find them.

Research tools with controlled vocabularies:

• Searching Worldcat.org + Tripod

Finding Search Suggestions

Organizing your research
(strategies + tools for historians)

• Document your process

• Save consistently

• Annotate sources

Three ways to stay organized
while doing research: 

{ ideas, searches, sources }

{ done & to-do }

{ while you still remember }

Document Your Process

As you work, keep a research log.

- Today's date

- What did you do today?
- What are your next steps? (however tentative)

{ Tools }
• Google doc, Word doc, notebook, Simplenote
• Browser history, search history


Save Consistently

Be predictable
Decide on and stick to a system that is easy and reliable.

Label everything 
Include enough information so you can recognize sources at a glance.  (even a few weeks later)

Zotero - Get started: bit.ly/zotero-setup 

       -  One place to save sources + citations

       -  Sort, categorize, tag sources
       -  Generates formatted citations


Annotate Sources

Source notes
Why does this document seem (potentially) relevant?

Write it down now, while you still remember.

Categorizing sources

It can be helpful to sort your potential sources into categories (by topic, by potential use, etc.) 

{ Tools }
• Zotero -- tags, folders  ("collections")

• Coggle -- create groups of sources, authors


Navigating historical scholarship

Key research tools:

JSTOR, America History & Life, Historical Abstracts

Navigating historical scholarship

Key research tools:

JSTOR, America History & Life, Historical Abstracts

SU chicago AND ( ("historiography" OR "bibliographies" OR "review essay" OR "review essays" OR "review article" OR "review articles") )

Next steps:

• Talk with Sarah about your project.

• Use the Research Guide for History 091


History 091

By Swarthmore Reference

History 091

HIST 091 / Fall 2018 / Sarah Elichko

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