Higher Education Libraries in your PERsonal history reSearch

Should I search or browse?

This website allows you to search and browse the Helpers descriptions, but it is much preferable for you to browse the descriptions.

'Browsing' is where you look through collections of items seeing if you can see something useful, 'searching' is where you give the computer some criteria like a search term and allow the computer to find items for you.

We would, however, strongly advise you to browse through the Helpers descriptions rather than search them.


The reason for this is that you may miss some key records. For example, imagine you're a local historian interested in Camden, and you type 'Camden' into the Helpers search engine. It will find all the entries that mention Camden (as you'd expect) but it won't find the Charles Booth Archive entry, which though it covers all of central London, doesn't explicitly mention Camden.

A much better approach would be to use the browse facility to look at the geographic coverage of all the Helpers descriptions. In this case you would see that the Booth archive covers 'Central London (bounded by Hammersmith, Hampstead, Greenwich and Clapham).' and that you'd be probably interested in its holdings. This website's browsing facilities allows you to select the browsing criteria, so you can look at (for example) the dates covered by a collection, its geographic area, the research 'themes' it is useful for, and so on.

More subtly, research gets really interesting when you manage to make unusual connections, and you typically don't manage to do this when you're searching for something. If you browse through descriptions you're likely to notice things that are interesting to you, but you didn't realise were interesting until you saw them. You don't make discoveries like this when you make very specific searches for items.


The downside of browsing, is, of course, that it may take some time, but you will get a good overview of all that the Helpers descriptions have to offer.

The next guide is Adding comments.


The Helpers system is developed as part of the Accessing our Archival and Manuscript Heritage project, at Senate House Library, University of London, funded by the Laser Foundation and the EARL Consortium. Please see the project website for further details.