Archival research is certainly the historian’s bread and butter, but it is also an important method of data collection in other humanities and the social sciences. Indeed, archival research can provide crucial additional data for ethnographic and other fieldwork based research methods. Documents in archives are often sources of important quantitative data for statistical research as well.
At its simplest, archival research involves any activity working with papers, manuscripts, government documents, and other print materials in an archive. Of course, in reality it ends up being a whole lot more complicated than that. What kinds of materials are housed in archives? Which archives have which materials? How do you get access and permission to work in the archive? Even after all that, you have to actually request specific materials to work, find a way to record whatever it is you want to collect from those materials. Finally, you have to find a way to connect hundreds of disparate documents for crafting a historical narrative, digitize it for later analysis, or code and record the material for quantitative analytical techniques. In other words, at its simplest archival research is anything but simple.
Read these short postings about how to go about finding, evaluating, and eventually working in archives:
Unlike many universities, Yale’s library resources include extensive archival collections, with several collections relating directly to South Asia. Below are three areas to being to think about for undertaking archival research at Yale, whether for a standalone project or to supplement existing research. Section 1 of this module included links for beginning to plan your archival research here and overseas; however, you should also feel free to consult to the Librarian for South and Southeast Asian Studies as well as faculty members for more recommendations and guidance along the way.