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LAH/HMN350: Giving Voice to Hidden Histories / Lang

Keeping a research journal

How can this help you in collections and in primary source research?

Primary source research is inquiry-based. This means that you will be asking questions based upon what you observe in the primary sources. You won't go into a collection with an argument in mind, or looking for a specific thing. Rather, you will lead with curiosity and allow the materials you find to guide you to new questions, new connections and new knowledge.

The best way to make the most out of your interactions with these collections is to keep a detailed research journal each time you handle materials. 

  • Plan out realistically how many times you will be able to visit these collections. You'll find it's not as often as you'd like.
  • It is very common to brush off a seemingly insignificant piece of material in a box, only later in your research to realize you may have missed something important. You will be left wishing you had taken better notes.
  • Analyze sources much like we will during our hands on sessions in the collections. Ask questions, decide what you need to learn to contextualize. 
  • When you're able to, take pictures.
  • Be reflective. Take a moment to synthesize your thoughts after your visit. Write down questions you have or impressions of the collection, its creators.
  • Ask yourself, why was this collected by UT, or at all? Why do we provide access to this collection? Use finding aids and archivists to learn about the origins of a collection to learn how it fits in with other collections UT has.

Journal Prompts

January 28th: Searching in TARO, using finding aids and subject guides

  • Record keyword strategies - what terms work in TARO? Do terms in promising entries lead  you to other ideas to explore?
  • Record potential collections to explore - make a list of collections that look promising and explore related collections if possible. Think about back up plans.
  • Record current thought processes - what am I interested? Why does THIS record interest me?
  • Record thoughts about scope: how many linear feet or boxes are in this collection? Is it manuscripts, photos or is it AV materials I will need to watch? Are they labeled meaningfully?
  • Start asking questions before you plan to see the collection so you will be goal driven during the sessions.
    • ex: There are a images in this box: who is identified in the images?
    • ex. There is a diary in this box. Whose is it? What is their perspective? How old were they when they wrote it?

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