Numerous digital databases exist online for use by historians (i.e. the Old Bailey Proceedings Online; BnF Gallica, etc.). I feel that creating one’s own database (on a much smaller scale than these huge data collections) can be a great way to organize and process one’s own research [i.e. photos taken in an archive, notes, interviews, etc]. This past summer, I began putting my archival research into a Microsoft Access database, but am still working out the kinks in how to best organize and process my data set.
I propose holding a discussion and brainstorming session over the best ways to organize and process primary sources. Questions would include, but not be limited to,
- What are the benefits and limitations of using/creating a digital database for humanities research? Is it really better than old-fashioned note cards and composition notebooks?
- What kinds of research questions become possible by having a database at one’s fingertips? What does it mean for humanities research?
- What are the best practices for organizing research?
- What are some practical recommendations for how to use databases for research (i.e. file formats, programs, etc.)?
- Databases for the initiated: do you need to be a programmer to make a solid database?
- Should databases be project-specific? Theme-specific? Person-specific? Field-specific? Or not specific at all?
- How might databases be shared? What problems arise with propriety (of the source materials in the database, of the file formats, of the structure of the database, etc.)?
- Are there benefits to creating one’s own database structure rather than simply using Zotero or other research software?
- Any other related ideas, thoughts, concerns, recommendations, etc.