5 Tips for Undergraduate Research in Chronicling America

The South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program (SCDNP) here at USC makes historic newspapers in South Carolina freely accessible and full-text searchable through a partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC). We are part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, in which we contribute digitized newspaper content to a free, online database, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

What can you expect to find in Chronicling America?

  • žLocal historical events, žSouth Carolina History, žUnited States History, and some international history.
  • Researching the Civil War, Reconstruction, World War One, Women’s History, African-American History? Read contemporary articles that were published as events happened.
  • Find articles on your topic in other newspapers published in 31 other states and D.C., and in over 6 million newspaper pages all in one full text searchable database.
  • Think there’s just history in Chronicling America? Not so. The types of information you might find in Chronicling America is expansive. Majors in disciplines such as Journalism, English, Political Science, Business, Education, History, Theater, Art, Cinema, Anthropology, and others can find great primary source information on their topics in Chronicling America.


Here are a few tips to get you started using the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers and historic SC newspapers in the South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program.

 5 Tips for Research in Chronicling America

1. You can find the South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program and Chronicling America online a few different ways.

  • Look for Chronicling America: Historic America Newspapers in Article Databases. Find it alphabetically or by looking at databases under the categories for History or Newspapers.
  • Of course, just googling “chronicling america” or “south carolina digital newspapers” will also work.


Not sure where to begin?

Use these program resources to help you get started with your research.

SCDNP LibGuide is a great place to get started if you want to research SC history. There are SC History Topic Guides on the Civil War, African-American History, Reconstruction and more; an updated list of digitized newspaper titles, Helpful Tips for Searching Chronicling America, and a historic timeline of newspaper articles to give you an idea of what you might find in the newspapers.


Topics in Chronicling America, which covers American history topics, is another great place to get started. You can peruse topics guides on particular subjects and read historic newspaper articles on almost 100 topics: like Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang, Early Cinema, the Chicago Black Sox Scandal, the Emancipation Proclamation, Yosemite National Park to name just a few.


2.  Developing Good Search Skills to Use Chronicling America


3. Organizing content you find in ChronAm as you perform research.

  • Create a folder on your Desktop, and save articles to that folder.
  • Make a word document and copy and save the persistent links to be used in citations when you are writing your paper.
  • You can download an entire page as a pdf and save it for later reading.
  • Use the Clip Image feature when you want to zoom in on a particular image or article on a page. You can then download it to your folder.


4. How to properly cite content used in Chronicling America.

Newspaper content in Chronicling America is copyright-free because content pre-dates the 1923 copyright law. However, although all newspaper content included in Chronicling America is copyright-free, don’t forget that you still need to cite sources you use in your research. Here are two examples, using Chicago/Turabian and MLA citation styles, that you might follow when citing an article you have found in Chronicling America. Persistent links are provided on each newspaper page that will always take you back to the content, if you save it while doing your research.


Chicago/Turabian citation example

“The Duties of the Hour.” South Carolina Leader, October 7, 1865. From the Library of Congress website Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025783/1865-10-07/ed-1/seq-2/


MLA citation example

“The Duties of the Hour.” South Carolina Leader 7 Oct. 1865. From the Library of Congress website Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025783/1865-10-07/ed-1/seq-2/. 26 Mar. 2013.


5. Evaluating Chronicling America as a good source for information.

  • Although newspapers are quality primary sources, keep in mind that the content is not always objective, but can be biased and subjective based on the writer’s point of view, the newspaper’s political views at the time, and the historical context in which an article is written.
  • Don’t just take our word for it. Ask yourself the same questions you would for any other online resource: who is the organization that makes Chronicling America available? is the site updated regularly? Why does the Library of Congress makes this info available? Are there any pop-ups and advertisements on the site? Is the information on the site free? Does Chronicling America check out as a quality source for information to you?

Need more help? Contact us and we would be glad to give you some more pointers and guidance on researching the newspapers. You can find our contact information on our SCDNP webpage under Contacts, http://library.sc.edu/digital/newspaper/index.html.

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@UofSCDigColl) and find out the latest in digitized collections at the university.

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