Archival research is a valuable tool for anyone conducting academic research. Local historians explore history in their communities, professors conduct research for their classes, and students use archives to get the material for their dissertations.
There are many advantages of archival research, though. It requires time and can be stressful sometimes when you can’t find what you need quickly. To get your dissertation written on time, you can ask an experienced writer online to help with your research topic, methodology, and findings or write your academic paper entirely from scratch. Such qualified writers can be found at dissertationwritings.com, which stands out as a professional writing help service for Masters and Ph.D. students for its ability for fast and high-quality order completion.
The archival process differs from library research and requires special attention to preserving the materials you are using.
Archival materials are documents preserved by governments, businesses, and institutions; individuals may also protect personal papers for posterity. Archives can include:
- Handwritten diaries.
- Typed letters sent by government officials.
- Photographs, maps, and artifacts that capture material culture at a particular moment in time.
Photographs are a significant portion of many archival collections and can reveal details about people who lived or worked in an area. A photographer must know his equipment to produce a quality image but must focus on composition and lighting while shooting.
Archival staff can usually assist in finding and using the materials. Rules for handling archival materials can vary, but gloves are often recommended because of the oils and residues on hands.
This guide will outline some typical archival research guidelines to help keep collections intact for future researchers.
Most organizations that research health, human services, social issues, the environment, and the sciences have their archives. Their data may have already been compiled and processed by researchers with more statistical expertise than the average researcher, which can save time.
These researchers’ work could also be more sweeping than your own, covering a larger geographic area or providing greater detail.
Higher education institutions can help their students by ensuring they have access to digital archives or databases and know how to use them effectively. These resources inspire student interest in non-historical research and provide insights into the broader research context that might not have been immediately apparent to the researcher. They also can teach students the importance of primary sources as a pedagogical approach to learning.
Archival research is a powerful tool for answering many traditional social science analytic questions. Its value depends, however, on the ability to locate archival materials that are relevant to the research question at hand.
To do so, researchers must understand the rules of access and the repository’s procedures to search its holdings. In many cases, this requires a formal orientation interview with an archivist.
It is also essential to determine if there are any limitations on the amount of materials a researcher may request to view or specific times when material requests can be made. These restrictions can impact the speed and efficiency of a researcher’s work. If errors or omissions are spotted, the researcher should point them to the staff.
Archival researchers must have a research question in mind to guide their search efforts. This is important for several reasons:
- It helps ensure that researchers focus their searches.
- It assists archivists in finding aids and other tools that make the collections more discoverable.
- It allows archivists to determine whether materials may pose health risks (such as mold or chemicals) that should be addressed before researchers can use them.
Many archives have access guidelines that help preserve the collection, protect it from theft, and ensure researchers can work in a quiet, distraction-free environment. In addition, several archives require that researchers register or sign in and provide their name, institutional affiliation, and description of the materials they wish to consult.
Archives serve as a valuable tool for academic research. Dedication, attention, and a well-defined research focus will help you to overcome all difficulties and find the most valuable materials. We hope this guide has provided some insights and helpful techniques that you will successfully use further in your studies or work.