Doing Archival Research in Political Science

by Scott A. Frisch, Douglas B. Harris, Sean Q. Kelly, and David C.W. Parker


"In my view, the papers of former members of Congress, committee records at the National Archives, and other archival materials are a woefully underutilized source of evidence in legislative scholarship. The chapters of this volume are simply the best treatment that we have of the practical logistics of conducting archival research about the national legislature. I recommend it highly." – C. Lawrence Evans, Newton Family Professor of Government, College of William and Mary

"Doing Archival Research in Political Science is a determined effort to restore the lost world of those diverse data repositories known as 'the archives'. The effort involves a defense of digging into them, a suggestion of the treasures to be found, and a guide for how to get started. With multiple and disparate examples, the authors seek to add to the methodological armory of political science, while recapturing the context––the enveloping framework, the hidden incentives, the personal motivations––within which political actors actually do what they do." – Byron E. Shafer, Hawkins Chair of Political Science, University of Wisconsin

"This excellent, timely, and cogently written book boldly challenges political scientists to expand their research methods to include extensive use of the rich, largely untapped, political archives of this nation. There are rich veins of untapped gold awaiting political scientists in the vast political archives of the United States. It challenges political scientists to engage in archival research and provides excellent examples of how this can be done. Let the gold rush begin! Entire careers of research and bold new approaches to the study of political science await scholars who are willing to engage in mining the rich, largely untapped gold that can be found in this nation’s political archives. This book could help bring about a revolution in the way political scientists do their work." – Dr. Raymond Smock, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies; former historian, U. S. House of Representatives; and past president of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress

"Not just for political scientists--for whom this book is essential reading--this book is also for archivists, librarians, historians, and educators looking at interdisciplinary research methods and the value of primary source material to enhance theory building, data collection, hypothesis testing, and creation of engaging contextual narrative to explain human behavior and political process. The case studies collected here illustrate use of archival evidence by a range of intrepid researchers who honestly describe successes, challenges, risks, and drawbacks of using archives for both empirical and historical research. Two archivists collaborate in this effort to demystify archival research for political scientists and represent their own peers' eagerness to help provide access to and discovery of useful data and contextual information in undermined collections across the country." - L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin, Librarian, University of Delaware


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