Tips for researching neighborhoods, buildings, historic districts, and more. Covers architectural, historical, and socio-political dimensions of place-based research and use of archival, library, and web materials.
Place Based research often involves a mix of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.
Primary Sources are original documents that contain firsthand information. Interviews, documentaries, photographs, and government documents are common examples of primary source documents.
Secondary Sources are a degree removed from a firsthand account and usually contain analytical commentary. Common examples of secondary sources include: academic journal articles, newspaper articles, books, biographies.
Tertiary Sources summarize and condense information from primary and secondary sources and are typically used to get a general overview of a topic. Dictionaries and encyclopedias are the most common forms of tertiary sources.
This guide primarily uses examples from New York City but many of the research strategies can also apply to other places. For more information on NYC research, consult this guide.
Place Based Research
When you study a place, you learn about different disciplines and how they intersect in space and time.
Place based research is often used as a way to situate a broader inquiry in a local environment. Because place based research can take many forms and involve different disciplines it's important to develop a clear, specific research question in order to determine what kinds of sources you should consult.
Developing a Research Question
What is Interdisciplinary Research?
A 2004 National Academies' report defines Interdisciplinary Research as "a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice."