canstockphoto16180022 downloaded 3 January 2015

This next elements of your research challenge, analysis and correlation, are the ones that get overlooked the most often, yet professionals recognize they are the keys that will often reveal the answers to their research questions.

For this challenge, critically analyze your research findings. 

Conduct your analysis on each individual source. (Once the analysis is completed, then it can be compared or correlated with other information and evidence. We’ll cover correlation in a future post. The correlated evidence may compliment and fit nicely into the total picture, or contradict and seem out of place.)

Often, the information you need may be right before your eyes in the documents at hand.

Your goal is to recognize those critical pieces of information BEFORE they drop off your radar, but critical information may be hard to spot. You may not recognize those pieces when you first exam a document, but when you review your information with the perspective of the total picture, it may be easier to notice. Analysis will help you spot critical information. 

To analyze a document:

  • Go through the document line by line.
  • Gather the clues no matter how large or insignificant they may be. Is there anything that should be further researched? Who are the people named? Is everyone named that should be named or are some missing? Is there evidence of land ownership that needs further investigation? Who are the witnesses? Are they relatives or neighbors? Is there a property description? Are women named or just their husbands?
  • Note the names of family members, friends, neighbors. 
  • Note when your target person is not where you think he should be. Why is he not mentioned? Could he have been somewhere else, or was he really there but not named?
  • Assemble the clues in a way so that they will make sense when you correlate them side-by-side. For example: Let’s say you’re looking at a census record for 1840. Note the names in order of the people listed near your target person. Do the same for the 1850 census, and 1860, and 1870, etc. When it’s time for correlation, you may put those lists side-by-side to reveal who is missing from the neighborhood, who is still there, family members that were added or subtracted. You may notice a female child once living with her parents, may have moved next door under a new married name.

Analysis often produces questions that require further research. If you have found evidence in a census that your subject owned land, then you’ll want to look for more evidence such as, when did he get the land, who did he get it from, and how much did he pay for it?

When you have analyzed and gathered your clues or lists, correlation may make more sense of your evidence.

If you need more information about analysis, check out the past blogs on these subjects: