The Web has majorly impacted my ability to do historical research in several major ways. The first is in accessibility. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s far easier to access both primary and secondary sources on the Web, through online library catalogs and online databases. As an undergrad, I had unlimited access to the online databases that were useful for secondary sources when writing research essays. Even when I had to use analog sources, such as for my final undergraduate research project, finding their locations took far less time because I had access to the online library catalog and knew what I wanted and where it was located. The Web also shaved time off of my research. Using online databases such as Academic Premier and Muse, I found resources in mere minutes. In chapter four, Weller mentioned Zotero as a citation manager, which I used frequently to manage citations, I found that an efficient time saver and organizer.
However, a drawback to using the Web, is in how I analyze the sources I have found. Ever since high school, teachers and librarians alike have stressed that most online sources are in some way unreliable and not worthy of being cited without careful examination. As a result of this, I always examined my digital sources with a higher level of scrutiny than I do the print sources. It adds a bit of time to my research and I always feel like I have to further justify the digital sources I cite.
While the above may seem like a qualitative difference, I don’t agree with the idea that digital archives are in any way different qualitatively than analog sources. A digital source can be carefully sourced and cited on the Internet just as a print source can be. And just like a paper book, it is up to the historian to decide whether it’s trustworthy and reliable.