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  • 00:01

    [MUSIC PLAYING][Archival Research-- Finding Data]

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    SEAN KELLY: My name's Sean Kelly.[Sean Q Kelly, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science] I'mprofessor and chair of political science at California StateUniversity Channel Islands.My area of expertise is American politics, specificallythe study of Congress.My research, which is both qualitative and quantitative,draws heavily on archival data sources.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: I am the co-editor of a book calledDoing Archival Research in Political Science,and I'm a member of the National Advisory Board for the DirksenCongressional Research Center.Archival resources have a large number of benefits.They can give you an insight into politics and other social

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: behavior in a way that other data sources can't.They give you a sense of a process thatwas happening in real time as it is documentedin those archival sources.Archival data is spread out all over the country.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: If you're studying Congress, for instance,the papers of individual members of Congressare in each of their congressional districts.So everywhere from Alaska to Florida,you'll find these resources.They're oftentimes held at universities.Most universities have a special collections

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: or an archives department where you can probablyfind some archival resources thatwill be good for your research.The biggest challenge to archival researchis finding what you're looking for.Oftentimes, these collections can be dozens, hundreds, eventhousands of boxes.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: And the big question is where is the material that youneed to find in the collection?How do you access it?And then how do you use it when you're actuallydoing your research?[Benefits of Using Archival Resources]

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: One of the major benefits of using archival resourcesis the ability to peek behind the curtaininto processes that we usually don't have accessto before these resources become available.For instance, think about the White House for a second.We don't really get to see what's

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: happening inside the Oval Office or what'shappening in the offices next to the president, where they'redeveloping a strategy to pass a bill.These documents can give us insightinto those kinds of processes, even though they mighthave happened a few years ago.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: They will give us a kind of insightthat we can't possibly find anywhere else.Archival resources give us a real sense of context,of process, of what's happening, who'sinvolved at what points in decision-making processes.The kinds of things that political scientists,

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: in particular, but I think scholarsacross the social sciences are reallyinterested in understanding.When I work with archival documents,I oftentimes find myself generating questionafter question after question simplyby absorbing the documents, listening

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: to what the people are saying in those documents,and then following the leads that theyprovide into the collection, into the nooks and crannieswhere you really find the interesting materials,the ones that really reveal a political or a social process.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: Two other benefits of archival research.One is that archival research can give ussome access into questions that maybe a field hasstopped asking a long time ago.One of those, one example, is how presidents

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: try to influence Congress.Research in that field has sort of gone fallow for a while,in part because of the limitations of the datathat are available to us.Well, if that's what you're interested in,then these archival sources are going to give you entree

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: into that process.And perhaps, and this is the second benefit,create new sources of data, both qualitativeand quantitative data, that you canuse to answer these questions, maybein a way that nobody ever thought ofor nobody ever thought was possible.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: For instance, when the president'strying to pass a bill, they have a staffin their Liaison Office.That staff is charged with keepingtrack of members of Congress and how those members of Congressmight vote on a particular bill.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: What they do with that is they go to the president,and they may say, there are a few key membersthat we need you to make a phone call to, to appeal to them,to try to get them over onto our side.Well, without the archival documents,we don't know if those phone calls have been made,what the president said, and whether the president was

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: successful.With the archival documents, the so-called whipcounts, the pieces of paper wherethey're keeping track of who's votinghow, we can look to see who has the president talked to?Was the president successful in getting a member of Congressto come to their side of the issue?

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: So now we can answer a question in a way that wasn't possiblebefore until we took that peek behind the curtainto see what the process was like and what political actors weredoing.[Where to Find Archival Data]

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: Where do we find these data?Well, like I said, they are spread out allover the country.When it comes to members of Congress,those collections can be anywhere from Norman, Oklahoma,to Pullman, Washington.Presidential collections are in the presidential libraries,

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: and those are administered by the National Archives.And the National Archives has a centralized databasewhere you can go and do a pretty accurate search, from DwightEisenhower to Bill Clinton.Many universities, in fact most universities,have a special collections department.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: There's probably one on your campus.Go to their website.Look and see what collections they have and in what areas.These collections aren't always simply membersof Congress or presidents.Sometimes they're state legislators.

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: Sometimes they're local political activists.Sometimes they are collections thatfocus on ordinary people and the movements that they've created.So you want to be creative when you'relooking through the list of collections and ask yourself,does that one have something that

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: could be of interest to me?[How to Find Material Within a Collection]So then the question becomes, well,how do I find that piece of paperor those pieces of paper, that folder,that I'm interested in accessing?

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: I mean, think about it.You've got a collection of maybe 100 boxes,and each box might hold 50 folders,and each folder might hold dozens of pieces of paper.How do you find that one piece of paperthat you happen to be looking for?Well, the short answer, or the first step,

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: is to go to something called a finding aid.The finding aid is made by an archivist, whogoes through the entire collectionand usually, at the very least, will list outthe folder names in each box.So each folder will get a descriptive name,

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: and then, you use those descriptive namesto begin to narrow down which boxesand which folders have the highest likelihood of havingthe material that you want.They won't always have what you want,and so part of the archival research experienceis about resilience, about sticking

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: with it, about following leads.And also, about simply using your instincts.Using your instincts is somethingthat you develop the better you know your particular topic.[Conclusion]

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: Archival resources offer an insightinto politics that can't be gotten any other way.And it's truly exciting to read these documents thatsay something about the development of our country'shistory or the development of a social movement

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: or a political process.These collections are all over the country.Sometimes you have to go and track them down,but in the age of the internet, that'sa lot easier than it used to be.Some additional resources that you can consider--my favorite resource is something called

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: the Congressional Bioguide.The congressional Bioguide is a short biographyof every member of Congress who has ever served in Congress.But you'll find a tab there that can lead youto the research collections that are associatedwith that member of Congress.So it's not impossible, especially

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: in the age of the internet.Finally, the finding aid is your friend.That is the roadmap to the collectionthat's going to get you where you want to go.It takes some time.It's a little bit like learning a foreign language.But once you've figured out how a finding aid works,

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    SEAN KELLY [continued]: you will find what you're looking for, more than likely.So here are some questions for you.Does your university have a collectionthat focuses on an area that you're particularly interestedin?Locate a finding aid associated with oneof your college's collections.Browse through the finding aid.

  • 11:49

    SEAN KELLY [continued]: How is the collection organized?What is the level of description?How are series, subseries, and folders organized?[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2018

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Archival research, Researcher skills

Keywords: access (research); archives; archives and museums; archivists; practices, strategies, and tools

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Prof. Sean Kelly explains locating data using archival research. Kelly discusses finding archived records and materials within a collection.

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Archival Research: Finding Data

Prof. Sean Kelly explains locating data using archival research. Kelly discusses finding archived records and materials within a collection.

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