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SPMT 3314: History of American Sport


To effectively search in digitized historical newspapers, you need to develop keywords that will yield results. They may look a bit different when searching in primary sources than when you are doing a typical Google or database search. 

Things to know: 

Historical newspaper databases typically search the titles and text of each article. The words appearing within a source or its title are often outdated, and sometimes even offensive. Searching for terms that we use today won't turn up results if they aren't the same terms that were used in the historical newspaper. 

example: If I search the ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Times and Washington Post database for ["African American" baseball], and limit my search to 1910-1930, I get zero results. Knowing that the segregated leagues were known as the "Negro Leagues," I can adjust my search terms to [Negro baseball]. This time I get 1,279 results. 

When we search on Google, TikTok, or other platforms, the algorithm will often substitute equivalent words for us. For example, if you search on Google for "Europe soccer leagues," one of the top results will be the Union of European Football Associations website; Google automatically searches for "football" as well as "soccer." Searches of digitized newspapers and other primary sources will not do this for you; instead, you have to search for multiple words. 

example: If I am looking for articles in the Historic San Antonio Express-News database about the Spurs home arena, I would need to search for "Frost Bank Center," "AT&T Center," and "SBC Center."  Searching just for "AT&T Center" doesn't turn up any results before 2005, and we know construction began in 2000. 

When you find a result relevant to your research, look for other keywords to help in further searches: different terms you hadn't thought to search, names you weren't familiar with, etc. Research is an iterative process....often one source leads us to the next!

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