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HIST 495: Historiography and Research Writing

This course guide was created to accompany a library-led instruction session for HIST 495 covering research methods and library services available for students.

Searching for Newspapers

While some tips from our "Find Articles" section will also be applicable for newspapers, there are other things you can do to make the most of your newspaper research.

Filter by date

In contrast to academic articles which you might want to filter to "the last 5 years" or not at all, when searching newspapers you're often looking for information from a specific time period. For example, if you search for "Louis Braille," you're just as likely to get results in a newspaper database posthumously looking back on Louis' life and career as you are to find reactions to his work during his own time. To get the results you want, narrow your search to a specific date range: this can be a decade, a set of a few year... whatever makes sense for your topic!

Filter by place

In some cases, you may be interested in learning how people local to a topic are reacting to it. For example, "How did the people of Chicago react to the Great Fire of 1871?" If you just search for "great fire" or "Great Chicago fire" and limit your search results to 1871, you may get results from national or international newspapers reacting to the event. Check the "Advanced search" options of the database you're using to filter to newspapers in a specific state or region. You may even be able to narrow your results to a specific local newspaper!

Use varied search terms

Remember: we haven't always used the same vocabulary terms over the decades. The terms that are used in historical newspapers (particularly pre-1970) are likely to be different than what you'd expect today. Some terms used may be offensive or racist, and others may be simply strange or unusual to you. Figure out what terms were used in the time you're studying, and use that to inform your research!

As always: be flexible!

Not every search works the first time. Try out a few different strategies and see what works for you!

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Becca Yowler