Periodical sampling

If your paper will be based largely on periodicals as primary documents.

There should be some logic to the selection of documents you have chosen and you should be able to answer these questions:

1. If you are writing about a relatively obscure topic and the problem is finding enough articles, have you looked at all the periodicals databases we have? See the periodicals tab in the libguides for a list.

2. If there are more articles than you can possibly read, how did you decide to choose the sample you will read? How will you avoid confirmation bias by choosing only articles that confirm what you already thought? Consider:

    • Why did you choose the range of dates with in which the articles appeared?

    • Why did you choose these particular publications?

    • Why did you use the databases you used? Proquest Historical Newspapers (PNH)? America's historical Newspapers?Reader's Guide Retrospective? Other.

    • Do you know the difference between what kinds of sources you will find there?

    • Have you asked the Librarian if there's another database you might want to search?

3. Would it be valuable to look at periodicals that come from different ideological viewpoints? E.G. a conservative magazine and a liberal magazine?

4. Have you done any research on the periodicals you are consulting? PHN, for example, includes black newspapers. Do you know which ones they are? Do you know which magazines are conservative and liberal? Socialist? Libertarian? Do you know which newspapers have conservative or liberal editorial policies? Usually a quick Google search of the periodical's title will tell you a lot.

5. How many articles are necessary to convincingly support a generalization? One Negley winner from 2013 listed 43 articles in its bibliography.

6. Be careful about using periodicals to generalize what America or Americans believed about a topic. At best, you can only generalize about what the class of people who write in periodicals believed. A better source for understanding popular opinion is the Gallup poll results, which we have in the reference section of our library (call numbers 303.38). They go from the 1930s to the present and are well indexed.