Digital Sources vs Analog Sources: What’s the Difference?

The internet has become an increasingly useful tool for historians to conduct research. Historical databases have now archived countless articles, newspapers, periodicals, surveys, studies, and other smaller pieces of information. Having this available at all times has massively accelerated the rate at which we can find information and analyze it. In the past, if your nearby libraries or museums did not have what you were looking for, you would have to find ways to ship things in, or even travel outside of your region to get to what you were looking for.

Although the ease of access is there with digital sources, some problems still arise, the biggest being availability. Many databases are either very specific, or very general. For example, JSTOR may have millions of different articles to read over, but so much of it is so varied that it becomes hard to find specific information, like local/regional historical records. On the other hand, you might want to find old Waterbury Republican newspaper articles from the 1920’s, but the only Connecticut database you can find is for the Hartford Courant.

Analog sources also give you the advantage of personally looking over exact primary sources. Often times, scans of historical documents do not come out particularly well, so having real documents in your hands can lead to greater results. In addition,  many historians have argued against the legitimacy of digital history in terms of using the same citations. Archivists that have spent countless hours digitizing history, some argue, deserve just as much consideration as the piece of history itself. From a historiographical perspective, digital history can get quite messy.

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