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America Through Pictures: A Research Guide: How to Research an Image

Use the following guide as a reference for your picture projects for Ms. Sepcie and Mr. Bresnan's U.S. History classes.

Picture Project Objective

I have a picture - Now what do I do?

How do I research an image?

Step 1: What tools can I use to figure out what my picture is about?

  • Analyze and make observations about the photograph - is there anything or anyone in there that is "searchable"?
  • Does the photography provide any words, descriptions, or captions that you can use to search?
  • Can you locate that image, or similar images, on a image search such as Google Reverse Image? If so, what additional information can you locate?

Step 2: What is the historical context? Why is it historically significant?

  • Now that I have an idea what my image is about - what time period can I place it in?
  • What is the context of the picture, does it connect or relate to another historical event or movement?
  • Does the image provide an alternative or varying perspective on a well-known subject or event?
  • Why was this image taken?
  • What does the angle, subject, or other artistic compositions convey about its historical significance?

Step 3: What approach or focus will I use to interpret the image? How will this shape my thesis?

  • From what approach can I interpret my photograph? 
  • What are the possible topics or sub topics that I can address? (who, what, when, where, why)
  • My thesis is too broad - Am I overwhelmed by the amount of information I find? Does it cover to large of a time period of geographical area?
  • My thesis is too specific or not accurate - Am I having a hard time locating reliable sources? Are the sources I am finding opinion based or too generic?

Step 4: How can I find academic information to support my thesis?

  • Have a tried a variety of sources? (i.e. media, articles, primary sources, documentaries, other images)
  • Am I switching up my keywords? Trying synonyms, varying "nicknames", terminology, or different word combinations?
  • Have I tried to truncate my search term? (i.e. searching for child* will yield results with children, childhood, childcare, etc)
  • Am I combining database sources with internet searching?
  • Was I able to locate an author or publishing site? Can I verify that they are qualified to write and publish on the subject?

Sample Image