Assignment –Newspapers

Due Date

  • Friday, October 27, 2017 by 5pm (via course website)


Students in History 204 should create a short entry in their research journal (about 600-800 words, or 3-4 pages) that describes how they researched digitized and microfilmed newspapers concerning articles about an important national or international event  from their assigned class year.  Students may also use newspaper research to explore stories of students from their assigned class.


  • Entries will be evaluated on the effectiveness of the prose (for a student audience), the extent of the research effort and and the depth of historical analysis.  For this newspaper entry, it is especially important that students show care in explaining how they chose particular databases, used search terms, and assessed the relative merits of various types of newspaper publications and articles.


  • USING NEWSPAPERS.  Newspapers are a particular genre that have a complex variety of article types and formats.  Nineteenth-century newspapers are also complicated by the fact that they often had overt partisan affiliations.  Students should provide evidence of their efforts to master all of this complexity by providing and carefully describing at least three (3) examples of relevant newspaper articles (as image or PDF files) in their journal entry.  At least one of these sources must come from microfilm research conducted either at the College Library or at the Cumberland County Historical Society.


  • ADDITIONAL WORK.  If time allows, students are encouraged to try to create a short video tutorial on how to use microfilm for other future 204 students at Dickinson.  Such efforts can receive up to 5 extra credit points.

Models To Review

Database Suggestions

  • The Library Database Finder contains several important subscription-based historical newspaper collections.  Here are some of the most relevant for your project:
    • 19th Century U.S. Newspapers
    • Accessible Archives
    • Civil War Era
    • Historical Newspapers
  • There are also a number of valuable collections available freely online, including some especially well-designed for your project:
  • Each of these platforms (both paid and free) has its own interface, so there’s a small learning curve to overcome with each one, but the results can be astounding once you master some of the basics.  You can search individual names (seeking out both contemporary articles from life and recollected pieces, such as obituaries or even later reminiscences of famous subjects), or combine names & keywords to find particular stories of value about events or topics related to your assigned class.


  • Microfilmed newspapers require extra time when using for research purposes.  Make sure to budget your time carefully.
  • The goal of these posts is to provide inspiration for future students at the high school or undergraduate level.  Make sure to write in an engaging style and to populate your posts with helpful images and tools (such as sub-headings and bullet-points) that can make the teaching elements clear.