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Southern Maryland Studies Center Research: Making Sense of Archival Records

SMSC

Skills

Depending on the individual record and the research topic, you may need to develop the following abilities:

  • Ability to analyze how a record is structured and where relevant information (for instance, people’s names) is found.
  • Ability to read historical handwriting.
  • Ability to understand the language, whether this means an actual foreign language or jargon/abbreviations.
  • Ability to use skills for specific types of record, such as map-reading.

Interpreting Sources

You must also assess the relevance of individual records in the wider context of your research, which sometimes means interpreting them with caution. Pay attention to things like:

  • Authority—who is the author? What is their point of view?
  • Purpose—why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
  • Relevance—how is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?