Close reading of an online resource — New York Times Historical

Students perform complex, iterative searches and draw on additional library resources to provide context and analysis of historical articles.

What happens when students, many of whom are new to the study of history, encounter primary source materials for the first time?

In spring 2016, Professor of History Dan Czitrom taught a First-Year Seminar course entitled Reading the New York Times: Journalism, History, Power. The course analyzed the significance and workings of the newspaper over time. One major project that students undertook was using our online subscription to the New York Times Historical Edition to examine a major historical event as it was covered by the paper.

To help students successfully use the database, LITS Liaison Bryan Goodwin developed a library research guide and co-lead a session with Czitrom to help students become expert database searchers as well as informed readers of the articles that they retrieved. Starting with simple searches and then graduating to more complex ones based on our earlier results, the session naturally evolved into a highly collaborative, interactive mining of the database. The searches were first modeled by Czitrom and Goodwin but soon involved all students. By the end of class, students – including those new to the study of history – were performing complex, iterative searches as well as drawing on additional library resources to provide context and analysis of the retrieved articles.