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Digital humanities: humanities research in the digital age
Digital humanities: humanities research in the digital age

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3.5 Searching the past

Another challenge of using search engines to explore historical documents is their capacity to fragment the sources in the process of retrieving information. Consider the difference between finding an article in a newspaper by reading the whole page, compared to searching and only retrieving the specific item with the search terms you were looking for. The juxtaposition of articles in a newspaper may reveal important contextual information for your chosen article (for example that the results of an election taking place in the wake of a stock market crash). It could also give you vital clues to how contemporary readers might have interpreted the contents, as they could only have found it by turning the pages and not through the lens of a search engine.