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How To: Research With Historic Newspapers


What is Search Strategy?

Use these techniques to increase your chances of finding the newspaper articles most relevant to your research.

Boolean Operators, Logic, and Proximity

operator use hints
AND "all of these" too many results? add another search terms using AND
OR "any of these" too few results? add another search term using OR
NOT "none of these" irrelevant results? eliminate some using NOT
NEAR "within n words of each other" need words close together, but not exactly in order
"    " "the exact phrase" use quotations to search with 2 or more words in a precise order


Limits. Ways to Narrow or Focus Your Search Results

limit use
GEOGRAPHY restrict results to a state, city, or specific newspaper title
DATE restrict results by year(s), month(s), or exact dates
PRE-LIMIT set search limit before the search is executed
POST-LIMIT also called filters or facets, limit results after the search is done


Wildcards and Truncation

These techniques allow for searching with character variation when one or more characters are unknown or uncertain.

symbol use examples
? fills in a single character (0 or 1 places) wom?n = woman, women
* fills in 1 or more characters child* = child, children
* * fills in 1 or more characters in the middle of and/or at the end of a word far*m* = farm, farms, farmer, farmers BUT ALSO Fartham, Farnum's
?  * combine wildcards and truncation with operators for more sophisticated search options wom?n NEAR3 child* = women and children, children and women, women and four children, woman big with child


Your Research Question

Before diving into your newspaper search, take a few moments to formulate your research question and objectives. Your question should be:

  1. Fairly specific. What are you hoping to find by using historical newspapers?
    • Does your question take place within a particular era or time period?
    • Is your question focused on a specific geographical area?
    • Are you looking for an individual, a topic, a trend, an event?
  2. Motivating. A well devised research question in your area of interest should inspire you to dig deeper into the available resources.
  3. Iterative. It's not uncommon for a research question to be revised and iterated as you uncover additional information. Perhaps it becomes more specific. Perhaps the scope changes.

Using the NEAR Operator

Do the following search in Early American Newspapers:

Ellen NEAR2 William NEAR2 Craft

This yields resutls for the couple, Ellen and William Craft.  Note that by using NEAR we retrieve results with the couple's names in either order

  • Ellen and William Craft
  • William and Ellen Craft

But always the names appear near enough to each other to yield meaningful results.

See the results.

Help Files

Need more details? Look at the different "Help Files" for each product.

Chronicling America Help

NYS Historic Newspapers Help

ProQuest Help.

  • Chicago Defender
  • Democrat and Chronicle
  • New York Times
  • U.S. Northeast Collection

Readex Help.

  • African American Newspapers
  • America's Historical Newspapers