Using Dates to Search History Databases

Hi, in today’s episode of three tips in three minutes we’re going to be talking about using dates to do your history research The first tip is really straight forward think about using dates in your searches Can be something very simple so for instance, we’re looking here at JSTOR Let’s say you’re searching for scholary articles There’s going to be so much content here and you’re going to be getting back so many results for a lot of topics just stop and think about the dates so, articles in JSTOR Think about the publication date Do you just want to see current scholary articles from maybe the past ten years or the past twenty years? Go ahead and enter a date range like 1990 to 2012 anything you can do to cut down the number of results that you’re going to get back when you’re first starting out your searches and also potentially focusing your research on more relevant perspectives more recent perspectives on the research. The second tip be sure that you’re distinguishing between the date that something was actually written and published and the date that something is about. So, as an example let’s say I write an article this year about The Civil War The article is published in 2012 but the article is not about 2012 It’s about the 1860’s When you’re searching in particulary the two databases America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts you’re going to have options to separately enter publication dates or historical period dates. So you can say you’re interested in articles that are about 1861 to 1865. You’re not going to find stuff that was written then, but modern articles that are about that period. This is distinct from the publication dates where you could say I want things published from 2000 to 2012 and you’ll get just that most current twelve years of research. Now the third tip is to always take a minute to really look at the database you’re searching and see what kind of special options it might give you for searching dates. Here, we’re looking at America’s Historical Newspapers. Anything you might search in readex like these newspaper collections or the African American periodicals The American State papers congressional serial set, or a lot of our other collections. These are going to give you really unique options. You can just type in a date range and it will retrieve primary documents that were written between those dates. Or, it also gives you these great check boxes for eras in American history. So instead of you stopping to think well what are the years that I want to look at? Just look at the periods. Each period will have a name, like the U.S. Civil War or the roaring twenties and it will give you the list of some of the key events that define that period. So all you have to do is check one or more of these check boxes and you’ll be sure to get documents only from those periods. Anything that you can do to narrow in the time period will really help you to get more relevant results out of your searching.

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