Step 4: Conduct Research
Pointblank Times, an independent publication from Houston, 1977. From the Frieda Lindfield Werden Papers. The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Examine the Materials
Now that you're finally sitting down with a folder or website, it's time to conduct research. Examine the materials and take notes on what you find relevant or interesting. Looking at primary sources involves more than simply reading them - try to analyze and interpret what you find. Think about who created the materials, who their audience was, the impact of the time period, and connections with other people, events, and issues.
In a physical archives, keep your notes organized with the names and numbers of the folders and boxes. This will help you cite your sources and find materials again if needed. Handle items with care and don't change the order of the materials in the folder.
You might examine just a few folders, or several boxes. Don't feel that you need to view a whole collection - many are quite large!
It is good to have a guiding research question. However, if your question is too specific, it can be difficult to find archival evidence. You might revise or change your topic according to interesting things you find.
Different archival repositories have different policies on photocopying. You may need to ask staff to make a copy for you, and there may be a waiting period and a charge. For these reasons, it's best not to count on making a lot of photocopies.
Cite Your Sources
When presenting your research in a paper or presentation, you will need to cite your sources. Your professor might have guidelines about citation style. The archival repository might also have a preferred citation format listed in the finding aid or on its website. Your citation will probably contain these basic elements (followed by examples):
- The creator's name
- Anzaldúa, Gloria Evangelina
- A title for the work
- Letter to Sandra Cisneros
- The date of the work
- The collection name
- Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers
- The box and folder number
- Box 9, Folder 9
- The repository name
- Benson Latin American Collection
- The institution and location
- University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
Go to Step 5: Consider Emotions and Ethics