key practices for activist researchers



peace 071b
sarah elichko

• Generate some research leads by doing a quick    

   preliminary analysis.


 • Keep track of what you find

• Use the full range of research tools and resources at    

   your disposal


• Remember that "search" is not a one-size-fits-all

   technique; adapt your approach


Four Key Practices for Activist Researchers


Anti-hydrofracking protest in central PA, activists demonstrated outside the gates to a farm that had been leased to a gas company


• Quick preliminary analysis •

Start from what you know (from the case description).

          Activist group name? (local? chapter of larger org?)
          Farmer's name?  Name of gas company?

          Name of nearest larger town/city?

          What words do activists use to describe the action?
          What about the target?  Opposition more broadly?


           What relevant date(s) do you know?  
           What else was happening at this time?

Preliminary analysis --> Initial research direction

          Social media and web sources from activist group
          Blog posts, press releases from larger org
          News and other media quoting or referencing the
                    farmer, gas company, and/or activists

          Names of local and regional newspapers + media
          Info about other similar actions in the local area

          Higher chance of finding relevant sources
          Easier time recognizing relevant sources


          More manageable search results (narrow by date)

Keep track of what you find.

Search logs (see Tools + Worksheets)

Take good notes

• Names (individuals, organizations, agencies)
• Terms used by or to describe people involved
• Any alternative spellings, transliterations, translations

• Locations of importance
• Historical, colonial, or postcolonial names
• Key dates (consider making a simple timeline)

• Legislation, policies - any specific focal point / impetus
• Vocabulary that is characteristic of each side

Sources + Leads

• Found a Facebook post on the demonstration by a 

  member of the activist group.
          ---> searched Access World News for this person's
                 name, found out that she's quoted in 

                 newspaper articles you hadn't found before

• Read a local newspaper article quoting a gas company

          ---> searched for the gas company name,
                 learned that they testified in front of the
                 state Department of Environmental Protection,
                 obliquely referencing the demonstration

Use the full range of research tools and resources at your disposal

There is usually more than one way to find what you're looking for.

• Recent articles from a local newspaper:

          Access World News

          Google News Archive
          Regional sites: AllAfrica, MidEast Wire, Asia Source
          World News Connection

• How to identify useful research tools and resources •

• Check the Research Guide for this course.

          - Linked from Research Guides (current courses)
          - Go directly:


• Ask for suggestions and advice.

          - Email -
          - Stop by office hours:

                    T, 11-1 and W, 1-3 PM
                    Held at the Research & Info Desk in McCabe
          - Make an appointment

Search is not a one-size-fits-all technique - adapt your approach to the resource you're using.

Look out for Advanced Search options

Consider how far your search terms will go in the particular database/research tool you're using.

For example, compare these two databases:

- Access World News - searches full text of articles
- Alternative Press Index - searches the title and subject

          of articles, but not the full text

Research advice--

Don't hesitate to ask.

          - Email -

          - Stop by office hours:
                    T, 11-1 and W, 1-3 PM
                    Held at the Research & Info Desk in McCabe

          - Make an appointment