Qualitative Research Methodologies: Traditions, Designs, and Pedagogies Series
Exploring the Archives
A Beginner's Guide for Qualitative Researchers
Published: June 2021
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Published: June 2021
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Published: June 2021

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Published: June 2021
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6" x 9"
Language: English

A 2022 AESA Critics' Choice Book Award Winner
A 2022 SPE Outstanding Book Award Winner

This book offers qualitative researchers an entrée into the world of working with archival repositories and special collections. It serves as a primer for students and researchers who might not be familiar with these sorts of collections, but with an interest in what has become known as the “archival turn,” in which the use of archival materials and artifacts in contemporary research has increased dramatically since the 1990s. Suited to novice researchers seeking a general introduction into how special collections are created and how they can be used, the book offers useful, clear guidance on using different types of archives, developing topics for research within the archives, assessing materials available, how to work with archivists and curators, documenting the research process, and writing up an archival study. Archival records and material culture (including manuscripts, documents, audio- and video-recordings, and visual and material culture) housed in special collections provide a wealth of resources for qualitative researchers seeking to conduct research in the social sciences.

Perfect for courses in: Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods | Research Methods in Higher Education | Exploring Archival Collections | Family Studies | Community Research | Introduction to Special Collections Research

Table of Contents:

List of Figures and Tables

List of Abbreviations


ONE Introduction

TWO  Entering the Archives
Reflection 1 Permissions From the President and Missing Materials: The Challenges of Archival Research
Amanda Ingram

THREE  Examples of Archival Research

FOUR  Archiving Principles and Accessing Archival Collections
Reflection 2 You Won’t Find It Online: Entering the Archives to Tell the Story of the B-52s
Brigette Adair Herron and Scott Creney

FIVE Developing and Implementing a Research Study in the Archives
Reflection 3  Entering the Archives: Developing a Topic
E. Anthony Muhammad

Reflection 4  Entering the Archives: Developing a Topic
Judith Brauer

Reflection 5  The Dark Room: Thomas Evan Walker’s Journey from Pennsgrove, N.J. to France and Back
Kathleen deMarrais

SIX  Digital Repositories and Archiving Qualitative Data
Reflection 6 Accessing Online Repositories
Janie Copple

SEVEN Politics and the Archives
Reflection 7 Lucy and Her Sisters
Jean Swindle

EIGHT  Doing Quality Research with Archives
Reflection 8  Are Some Skeletons Best Left in the Closet? Ethics of Family Research Involving Illicit Activities
Jamie B. Lewis

Additional Resources


About the Authors


Reviews & Endorsements:

“The book is exactly what I was looking for. It's really the only book that I've found that works for undergrads, since everything else is directed towards grad students or professional historians.”

Lauren Araiza, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of History, Denison University

“The documentary archive is two-edged. It honors and brings history alive, offering a window into the voices, pains and social injustices of the past. The same window turns history back on itself, using the cracks, and contradiction of the past to imagine new futures, new utopias. Bringing the newcomer into the field through the multiple forms and uses of the archive is brilliant…The field owes the authors a big thanks.”

Norman K. Denzin, Emeritus Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“In Exploring the Archives: A Beginner’s Guide for Qualitative Researchers, Roulston and deMarrais bring together foundational as well as newer, cutting edge ideas related to archival research. From a discussion of what it means to be an archivist to an examination of the different kinds of archival research, this book offers a thoughtful, thorough, and accessible overview of archival research practices. The book includes both core chapters that introduce key concepts of archival research, as well as reflection chapters that offer rich and illustrative examples of archival research. Indeed, this book serves as the leading resource for scholars interested in completing archival research.”

Jessica Nina Lester, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Inquiry Methodology, Indiana University

“Roulston and deMarrais’ Exploring the Archives: A Beginner’s Guide for Qualitative Researchers is a most welcome and needed addition to the qualitative data collection literature. Like a rare find in the archive, this text overflows with rich details and thoughtful considerations of the nuances of archival work. The authors expertly guide readers through all aspects of qualitative archival work. Insightful examples punctuate the procedural work done in the main chapters of the text. This is a rich resource for anyone interested in qualitative archival research.”

Susan Nordstrom, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Educational Research, The University of Memphis

“This text is most timely, useful, and appropriate for teaching and learning qualitative inquiry in the Social Sciences field. It provides instructors and students with a range of approaches to archival practice. It is wide ranging from the who, what, how, where, and why of the practices. It SHOWS how it is done and provides examples of the authors and the graduate students’ practices. It provides social sciences and qualitative inquiry with a much-needed basic understanding of archival practices.”

Janice B. Fournillier, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Research Measurement and Statistics, Educational Policy Studies, Georgia State University

"(I) Encourage students to read the advice proffered by Roulston and deMarrais – and to use it as a guide towards exploring the archives. The material they find there will enrich our collective body of knowledge."

Review by Nigel Stark for the Journal of Applied Learning & Teaching, 9-1-21