Being Lost and Getting Found in the Whirlwind World of Research

When I began my project I was extremely confident in my ability to research good information. In the numerous research experiences of my History classes I had acquired a process. First, I would choose an interesting topic. Then I would embark on the most important part: researching evidence. I would normally go to Swem’s library catalogue or research database (or in exceptional cases, Special Collection’s database) and search the topic, or subjects associated with the topic. At the end of this process, the most difficult obstacle would be filtering and organizing the copious amounts of information.

That was the deceptive thing about my previous research projects. I unconsciously chose topics that would yield abundant information. And when I found that my chosen topic produced sparse results I would quickly switch to a more promising project. With this research project I found that this process would not work.

At the time I went to gather evidence for this project I hadn’t thought of that. I just knew that I would be able to apply the same method and get an ample amount of information. Unfortunately, I drew a blank. I searched topics like “Equalization” and people like “Governor James Barnes” in the South Carolina State archives and Historic Preservation archives and got absolutely nothing! I even looked on the Horry County school district website to see if they had any archives that would lead to these subjects. NOT! To say I was frustrated is an understatement.

Then at the point where I didn’t know what else to do (because I sure couldn’t change the subject), I struck gold! I received some much needed advice from a wonderful network of researchers. They gave me various options on how to get more information. One contact advised me to search the archives of South Carolina colleges for evidence. Another led me to secondary sources that would give me additional topics to search around. The last advised me that most of my evidence would come from newspapers surrounding the Equalization events and the interviews of the participants.

These new methods have taught me that I must really focus on how the evidence applies to and changes the focus of my research. It also has given me the tenacity to stick with a subject that needs exploration and that others will abandon because of lack of evidence.


  1. I’ve also been tempted to pick paper topics in the past for which I can find an ample amount of sources. I think part of what college teaches us is to have the courage to embark on an intellectual journey in which we may or may not get quick results, but to persevere simply because the topic deeply interests us. Props on your perseverance.

  2. jameshamarquaila says: