Research Methods in Information Science/The historical method

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The historical method employs the systematic study of historical facts to explain human political and social behavior. This method uses comparison to recapture details, personalities, and ideas.

"Although there is a difference of opinion regarding acceptance of historical research as a truly scientific research, as it does not permit enough precision and objectivity, yet there is a consensus that historical research has much to contribute in the field of library and information science."[1]

Historical research can be seen as ethically imperative for LIS practitioners.[2]

How the research process might go:

  1. Identification and delineation of the problem of historical significance;
  2. Collection of data and information through primary and secondary sources;
  3. Formulation of a hypothesis, if possible;
  4. Verifying the gathered data in terms of authenticity of sources and the validity of their contents;
  5. Organization and analysis of the pertinent data; and
  6. Presentation of facts in a readable form with proper organization, composition, exposition and interpretation

Identifying problem[edit]

Collecting data[edit]

Archival materials, newspapers, eyewitness accounts, literary writings, catalogs, non-documents (i.e. archaeological and geological remains)

Primary vs Secondary vs Teriary


Formulating a hypothesis[edit]

Very beneficial in reducing researcher bias. However, these can be very hard to test. Causal hypotheses are particularly important and very hard to test.

Verifying data[edit]

Organizing and analyzing pertinent data[edit]

Limitations of the historical method[edit]

  • A tendency to overrely on limited evidence or on secondary sources
  • Argument from silence
  • Easy to do overbroad problems
  • Easy to read the present into the past

References[edit]

  1. Bhatt, R. K.; Bhatt, S. C. (1994). "Application of historical method of research in the study of library and information science: an overview". Annals of library science and documentation 41 (4). 
  2. Wiegand, W. A. (1999). Tunnel vision and blind spots: What the past tells us about the present; Reflections on the twentieth-century history of American librarianship. The Library Quarterly, 1-32.