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  • 00:00


  • 00:11

    SEAN KELLY: My name's Sean Kelly.[Sean Q Kelly, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science,California State University Channel Islands]I'm professor and chair of political scienceat California State University Channel Islands.My area of expertise is American politics,specifically the study of American politicalinstitutions--Congress and the presidency.My research involves both qualitativeand quantitative approaches to political science.

  • 00:35

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: I am the co-editor of Doing Archival Research in PoliticalScience and a member of the National Advisory Boardfor the Dirksen Congressional Center.In this video, we're going to focus on four topics--working with archivists, using archival data in a researchsetting, using archival research remotely, and combining remote

  • 01:03

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: and in person archival research.[Working with Archivists]The archivist is going to be your primary contactfor finding the information that you want.It's important for you to know that archivists are typically

  • 01:25

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: trained in both library science and havea degree in some other field.But they may not be experts in your specific field.So one of the things that you needto remember with archivists is that your jobis to educate them to what it is that you are researching

  • 01:46

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: and to try to be as specific as possibleabout the kinds of things that you're looking for.Any particular archivist is not goingto necessarily know the collectionthat you are working in.Some of these departments have dozens and hundredsof collections.So it may be necessary to request

  • 02:09

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: that they spend some time looking through the papersbefore you actually get to the repositoryand start using them.There's nothing worse than going to a collectiononly to find that the things that you're looking foraren't there.When you're talking with an archivist,it's important to remember that they your access

  • 02:31

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: to the collection.So you want to be as polite as you can possiblybe because our archivists, due to their position,can limit access to a collection.A couple of common barriers to accessing collectionsare collections that are closed or collections

  • 02:55

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: that have restrictions.When you run into this do not give up.One of the chief skills in archival researchis resiliency--trying not to take no for an answer.If you run into a closed collection,ask the archivist-- is there somebody

  • 03:16

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: who can approve getting access to that collection?I've done that on many occasions, and onlyin one or two have I ever been denied access to a collectionwhen express a true academic interest in accessingthe collection.The same thing goes for restrictions.

  • 03:36

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: Sometimes the archivist can grant access,sometimes they have to go to the donor,to the person who gave the collection to the libraryin the first place.But both of these problems-- closedcollections and restrictions-- can be overcome,and you should try everything that youcan if you think it is a collection that you really

  • 03:60

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: need to have access to.[Using Archival Data in a Research Setting]The most important piece of adviceI can give to somebody who is going to use archival resourcesis to be sure that you're very confident in the designof your research.

  • 04:21

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: You should know your topic very well.You should do as much background non-archival research as youcan into the topic--identifying important dates, important events,or important to individuals because as you go onin the process, that's going to help you to identify the boxes

  • 04:45

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: and folders that you're going to be interested in getting accessto.[Doing Archival Research in Person]Sometimes, going to an archival collection requires travel,and travel requires money.

  • 05:06

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: If you are an undergraduate or a graduate student,your university may have funds thatcan help you to fund your visit to an archival collectionto do this kind of research.You should ask around.Ask your professor research mentor.Ask the chair of your department,

  • 05:29

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: and try to find out where this money might be found.It may involve writing a little research grantor something like that.Many archival repositories have small grantsto help people travel.Look at their websites.See if they have money.One of the nice things about writing these kinds of requests

  • 05:53

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: for funds is that one--it helps you refine your research design, and two--when you get one of these grants,it's something you can put on your resume.It is a real accomplishment to have somebody say yeswe're going to use our scarce resources to fundyour research.

  • 06:14

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: When you travel, one of the biggest considerationsis how much time do I need.Here again, the archivist is your friend.The archivist can look in the collection,see how many boxes might be relevant to your research, howmany folders in those boxes might

  • 06:35

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: be relevant to your research, and canhelp you estimate how many days it might taketo get through those materials.Here's a pro tip.If you have to travel, ask the archivistwhere are the good places to stay?Sometimes you can stay on a university campus

  • 06:55

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: very cheaply by living in one of the dorms.I did that once on a trip to Washington State University.I paid $10 a day to stay in the dormwhile I was doing my research.This doesn't have to be expensive.Once you arrive at an archival collection,you're going to want to familiarize yourself

  • 07:17

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: with the policies associated with that collection.Archivists tend to be sticklers for rulesso you want to be sure that you're following allof the rules of the archive.Some things that are common to all archives--no pens, only pencils.

  • 07:38

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: They'll provide those for you.No papers other than the papers that they'll providefor you in the collection.You may have a cart of boxes.Only one box on the table at a time.Once you have the box on the table,only one folder comes out at a time.

  • 08:00

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: Take one out, use it, and put it backprecisely where you found it.In order to know where that folder goes back, usuallythere's a little placeholder that they give you,you slide that in, take the folder out,and then when it's time to put the folder back,you know exactly where it's supposed to go.

  • 08:21

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: To be effective as an archival researcher,it's important to develop a sense of rapportwith the archivist, to treat themas a kind of a co-researcher who'sgoing to help you find what it is that you're looking for.They, after all, are more expert in the collection than you are.

  • 08:43

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: You know the substance better than they do,but they know the collection better than you do.When you come upon documents that youwant to have photocopied, each repositorywill have a separate way for marking those for photocopying.

  • 09:04

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: Be sure that you pay close attention to those rules.They're there, both for the archive and for you.It's important to be able to document wherethose materials came from--which box, which folder, which collection,and following their rules will help you to do that accurately.[Doing Archival Research Remotely]

  • 09:30

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: It's not always necessary to travelto an archival repository.Sometimes you can do it remotely.In fact, the longer you do archival research,the easier it is to do remote researchbecause you become more familiar with the structureof collections, with the terms that

  • 09:52

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: are used in folder descriptions, and so it makes it easierto sit 1,000 miles away, look at a finding aidand say oh, yes, these are the folders that are mostlikely to produce what I want.Different repositories have different rulesfor working remotely.

  • 10:15

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: In most cases, if you identify a few boxes and a few folders,and you tell the archivist what it is that you're looking for,they'll go to those boxes and folders, take a look,and let you know what they're finding.Maybe send you a few copies via email of the materials

  • 10:35

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: that are in the folder so that you can see themand get an idea if that's what you're looking for.Another option is to have someone there locally,who you can hire, to go in and do the work for you.I had somebody do this for me years ago at the Universityof Indiana.

  • 10:56

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: I paid him, maybe, $10 an hour to go into the archive,look for some very specific materials,have them photocopied, and then have them sent to me.They're oftentimes either in the archive in a departmentsome place on that campus, or freelance researchers who will

  • 11:21

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: go in and do this for a fee.[Combining in Person and Remote Archival Research]Sometimes the best approach is to combine travelwith remote research.For a project I'm working on right now,

  • 11:41

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: I was working remotely with the archivist at the CatholicUniversity in Washington DC and gettingsamples of the kinds of materialsthat were in the folders to see if the documents of interestwere there for me.And then after a few weeks, once Iwas satisfied that there would be enough material,

  • 12:04

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: I made my trip to Washington DC to the university,spent a couple of days in the archives,and got exactly what I needed.Doing this sort of remote sampling, followed by travel,is a really conservative way to approach your researchso that you're sure to get the material that you're

  • 12:24

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: looking for.Because ultimately, that's what this is all aboutis finding what you want and having that be precisely whatyou need for your research.[Conclusion]Using archival collections has been

  • 12:46

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: one of the real highlights of my career.I enjoy it like few other things that I do professionally.To be effective as an archival researcher,it's important to develop a sense of rapportwith the archivist, to treat themas a kind of a co-researcher who's

  • 13:07

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: going to help you find what it is that you're looking for.They, after all, are more expert in the collection than you are.You know the substance better than they do,but they know the collection better than you do.In order to be successful, you alsoneed to learn when to distinguish between whether you

  • 13:28

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: need to travel to a collection, or if you can do your researchremotely, or if you need to do a combination of those twothings.The archivist can help you to figure that out.Once you've made it to the archive,you're going to want to follow all the policies of the archive

  • 13:49

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: and leave the collection in a good stateso the next researcher can be as successful as you are.[Reflective] Questions & Activities]Here are some questions and activitiesthat might be helpful in preparing youfor archival research.

  • 14:11

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: Look up the biography of an archivist at a repositoryof interest to you.What is their training and experience?Were they involved in describing the collectionthat you're interested in?Were they involved in creating the finding aid?Find at least one funding source that might help pay

  • 14:31

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: for your archival trip.Oftentimes, those resources are associatedwith the collection itself.Take a look around the website to see if youcan find something like that.Work up a budget for a trip to a repository.Some things that you'll want to consider hereare all travel costs including transportation, hotels, meals,

  • 14:59

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: photocopying, and any other expenses that you can imagine.Write a mock email to an archivist.Explain your topic.Discuss which materials in the collectionare of interest noting the series, boxes, and folders,and ask for specific guidance on using the collection.

  • 15:22

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: You don't have to actually send the email, just write it.You'll find that it will help you to develop and clarifyyour thoughts about your research.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2018

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Archival research, Researcher skills

Keywords: archives; distance

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Prof. Sean Kelly discusses conducting archival research. Kelly explains the process of managing archival research remotely and in person.

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Archival Research: Conducting a Study

Prof. Sean Kelly discusses conducting archival research. Kelly explains the process of managing archival research remotely and in person.

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