As a History major in the late 1990s (as an undergraduate), I had the chance to experience doing research the “old school” way. By old school, I mean the kind of research where you had to go the University Main Library, go to the Serials, Archives and check out the books’ call numbers in the Card Catalog section of the Library. I was trained to have two kinds of index cards: the note cards (4×6 or 5×8) and the bibliographic cards (3×5) where you put rings through them to hold them together. I still have some of those cards in the house.
We did not have Evernote or OneNote at that time. We did not even have Zotero at that time. I still remember my student years taping index cards on the wall of my dorm room in Sampaguita in Diliman to arrange my notes chronologically before I wrote my research papers in college. I arranged them by index cards and 3M Post-it notes. The process was tedious and laborious but I loved it. Going to the UP Main Library almost every day was often accompanied by a happy feeling. Maybe it is the bookworm in me and the history geek as well.
I loved the feeling of finding a primary source and seeing the exact data you have been looking for. Up until now I can still remember my excitement and glee at seeing all those American period Reports of the Philippine Commission and copies of the Census of the Philippine Islands stacked out there on the shelves at the College of Public Administration (now UP NCPAG) library.
Much of that has changed today. I still bring index cards to the USC library (the Cebuano Studies Center) when I do my research but, these days, I take photos of the important sections and pages of primary sources that I am working on. I have two kinds of Notetaking apps (Evernote and OneNote – they’re very helpful!) and one FREE downloadable research app called Zotero which sorts notes by book, journal article and even has a feature where you can choose the citation format. Type in the information of a book and it gives you the correct format based on the style you are using like Chicago Manual of Style for example. It also generates a timeline of the notes you have encoded in the program.
Aside from all these, you can now access the Web OPAC off-campus which helps one “strategize” and come up with a list of sources to look up when you get to the library thereby saving your time. This surely helped me a LOT so I’d know what book to prioritize first and what campus libraries these books are located. One very helpful resource is the USC library’s electronic resource database which is actually a “Journal Article and Ebooks heaven” for a student.
Aside from the convenience of taking notes digitally, a lot of primary sources especially from the American colonial period in the Philippines have been digitized by several websites and digital repositories and have proved to be very helpful to my research.
These are the sites I go to to search for digital copies of primary sources on Philippine History:
*Now one very helpful website that I use and one which my brother suggested is Sci-Hub*. It describes itself as “the first website in the world to provide mass & public access to research papers”. I think it is one of the best things next to Spotify. 😀 You can paste the DOI or URL of a journal article and voila! It gives you the PDF copy of the said article.
I will update this post as soon as I have the address of the other websites I visited especially those that contain a lot of old photos of Cebu (my hometown) and the Philippines from the Spanish and American colonial periods.
Websites like these have certainly changed the way history majors are doing research and have made our work easier and more convenient. 🙂 Do I wish we had all these apps back then? No, I think that background in “old school research” helped us back then. I would not have it any other way. I am just glad I have the privilege of seeing the traditional merge or converge into the new ways of doing research.
*December 09 update — Sci-Hub’s original .cc site is down due to copyright infringement issues. It’s a pity since the site has been very helpful to researchers and graduate students like me.
I later found a mirror site on Twitter. I hope this works for a long time. The link above has been updated too.