This post originated in a class visit where I spoke about how to synthesize and write about archival research.

1. Accept Excess. You will gather much more research than you can use, so you will have to edit wisely and may have to narrow your scope much more than you initially thought.

2. Read Holistically, Collectively. We’ve all been well-trained in how to close-read text; archives encourage us to think about the form of a document in addition to its content, even if that document is strictly textual. How does the look of the page matter? Consider how the organization of materials into folders may shape your reading. How might you read across documents for shared connections and not just singly? What methods of reading materials will you adopt?

3. Section Out Your Research. Divide your research into individual sections of thought. What constellations can you produce in organizing material in one way or another? How might the organization of the materials in the archives play into or pull apart from the connections that you’re seeing?

4. Consider Your Guest List. In locating secondary sources, think of who you want to be in conversation with. What field or discipline? When you find a useful source, check its bibliography to start to build a network of interlocutors.

5. Acknowledge Your Process. Make your research process transparent and part of your analysis. Think about the archives and archival structures and how those play into your understanding of the topic and materials. How might you integrate and acknowledge archives as one of your research methods?