Newspapers are important sources of contemporary and current information, and become the rough draft of history. Historical news resources can give you the facts, along with the interpretation of events at the time.

For a list of news resources, visit the News Resources guide.

Beginning the Process...

It is a good strategy to learn about an event or issue through other primary sources first (i.e. government policy statements) and/or secondary, critical resources (books and journal articles). From these sources you will find:

  • Timeframe of the event/issue.
  • Names of the people or organizations involved. 
  • Keywords that best describe the event/issue.

Try these dictionaries to establish a chronology:

Once you have the above information, there are several ways to control the number of results and their relevancy.  There are a number of news databases available, each providing coverage for different news resources, but they all offer similar features for refining your search (see help guides within each database for additional details):

Developing a Search Statement

Search news databases the same way you would search a standard database, using keywords, Boolean operators, truncation, etc.

Specify a Date Range

If you know when the event or issue occurred, limit your date range to better focus the results. 

Limit to Specific Sources

The number of news sources available through our databases is quite extensive.  Searching a single news source, limited number of sources, or focusing on a specific geographical region will better-focus your results.

Search in the Headline and Lead Paragraph

Restrict your search of major concept(s) to the headline and lead paragraph to ensure a higher relevancy and eliminate incidental occurrences of your keywords found throughout the rest of the story. 

Specify the Word Count

Big stories about important events or in-depth analyses of an issue may be found by adjusting for word count. Unfortunately there is no precise formula for the length of news stories, editorials, letters to the editor, or feature stories, but these guidelines may help:

  • Greater than 750 words – if you want to eliminate shorter news items.
  • Less than 750 words – if you're looking for editorials or letters to the editor.
  • Over 1500 words - if you want a more detailed analysis of an issue

David Tait, Professor of Journalism, urges caution when using the word count restriction:  "If you eliminate smaller stories, you would also eliminate corrections and other follow-ups. In some cases, those corrections or editor's notes are very significant". [email communication]

AtLeast Command for Keywords

This command requires that a keyword appears at least a certain number of times in a story.

Byline (author)

You can limit your search to a specific reporter, if they have covered the evolution of a story from beginning to end.

Adjacency

Finds results where two keywords appear within a certain number of words from each other.