How to organise your archival research & find the primary sources you need

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Archival research is exciting but also puzzling. It offers the opportunity to find out new and interesting things about the past, but what exactly archival researchers do can seem mysterious.

At basis this involves reading much paper – but which papers and why, and how to analyse them, is rarely specified. However, a range of helpful advice can be provided,and this ‘how-to’ guide gives hands-on guidance for all stages of organizing archival research, from starting off, and producing a workplan and research design, through the details of working on collections and the boxes that documents are organised in,to reviewing the work done. It does so by working through some examples of archival research connected with the imperialist entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes, the Chartered Company he was head of invading Matabeleland, and the role of missionaries in this.

Preliminary work is detailed to ensure the researcher arrives in an archive well prepared. Effective organizational practices for working on collections and documents are detailed. Good practices in setting up research files, recording metadata, and writing summarising notes on documents, are recommended.Methodological pointers for ensuring knowledge is gained about collections in their entirety and strategies for working on individual documents are provided.

The detailed contents of the guide will aid the researcher in completing their intended workplan, having enhanced their knowledge-base, carried out their research project efficiently and satisfactory, and produced appropriate data for answering key research questions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch Methods for Primary Sources
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Aug 2020

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