Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Southern Maryland Studies Center Research: Making Sense of Archival Records



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?