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The Research – Tapping into Trove

July 23, 2019

The Empire has an Answer states the book is based on more than 35,000 newspaper articles.  Everyone wants to know: ‘Is that correct’? and, ‘Did you read all of them’?  Well, it might surprise you to know that by the end of writing I had actually downloaded, collated, cited and filed closer to 50,000 newspaper articles, and yes, I did read all of them.  The vast majority of my research came from newspapers of the day, and these were digital copies sourced from Trove using an application-programming interface (API).  For those that do not know, Trove is managed by the National Library of Australia and it helps you find and use resources relating to Australia.  It acts as a search engine that unites the collections of libraries, archives, repositories, collections and museums, with the most commonly used feature being the hundreds of millions of digitised newspaper articles.  Using my Trove API, I was able to bulk harvest Trove records based on my targeted searches. This allowed me to download around 40,000 articles as individual pdfs.  I sorted these by year, then arranged each year’s worth of articles chronologically.  I then combined each year into a single pdf, giving me the equivalent of seven large books of newspaper articles.  I read through each of these adding digital notes and keywords as I went.  In this way I could recall all articles relating to a keyword or theme as I needed them.  This initial research phase, prior to the existence of Trove, would have taken the better part of 2 solid years working at various archives.  I completed it in about a fortnight. Now, I have made it sound a little simpler than it was, but realistically, this is a book that could not have been written less than five years earlier.  Since writing the book the archives have become even more accessible and this type of research is now achievable by anyone with basic computer skills and a little persistence.

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