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Boatwright Memorial Library

English 399: Crime in America: Articles and Primary Sources

History Primary Sources

Searching for Historical Crime Journalism


Begin by thinking like a historian, then shift to thinking like a literary critic.

Ask yourself:  Who made wrote this? Where did the information come from?

Contextualize: Imagine the setting surrounding this source: What was the society for which it was produced?

Corroborate: What do other sources say about the information in this document? Do they agree or disagree with what this document says?

Analyze the text: What does the document say? What is the tone? What is implied by the diction?


Considerations when using historical news sources:


  • Scanned articles are sometimes misread by the scanner.  Be alert for words that don’t make sense.
  • Remember than any of a variety of related terms may have been used in the article and that the search mechanism cannot do “fuzzy’ searching.
  • Look for names of newspapers, persons, and places, and for dates to help establish whether you are looking at the same case in different sources.
  • Remember that the location of the newspaper is not always the same as the location of the murder.


Search features to look for in different databases:

Advanced Search

Dropdown box to choose field

Date restriction

Way to view transcript and original in context of page

Way to download a pdf

Way to email a link or a citation.

Sources of General Articles

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