Research Methods in Information Science/The historical method
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."
Historical research can be seen as ethically imperative for LIS practitioners.
How the research process might go:
- Identification and delineation of the problem of historical significance;
- Collection of data and information through primary and secondary sources;
- Formulation of a hypothesis, if possible;
- Verifying the gathered data in terms of authenticity of sources and the validity of their contents;
- Organization and analysis of the pertinent data; and
- Presentation of facts in a readable form with proper organization, composition, exposition and interpretation
Archival materials, newspapers, eyewitness accounts, literary writings, catalogs, non-documents (i.e. archaeological and geological remains)
Primary vs Secondary vs Teriary
Formulating a hypothesis
Very beneficial in reducing researcher bias. However, these can be very hard to test. Causal hypotheses are particularly important and very hard to test.
Organizing and analyzing pertinent data
Limitations of the historical method
- 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
- 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).
- 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.