Research guide and resources for new authors
This is the research guide and resources for new authors. It is intended to offer suggestions and advice for how to perform research on a Columbia-related topic. It's also meant to be an introduction to some of the resources that some of the contributors to WikiCU have found helpful and informative, as well as tips on the limitations of some sources. Many sources have online archives - click through on individual sources in this article to find links to online editions and archives where available.
Since WikiCU got off the ground in the spring of 2007, a great deal of historic material (covering the 19th through early 20th centuries) has been made available via Google Books which has scanned a number of Columbia related volumes and periodicals that are archived in other schools' collections. In addition, the Columbia Daily Spectator has finally digitized its archives. This has made a great deal of 'armchair research', so to speak, possible - you can now engage with Columbia history in a way that was previously only possible by visiting the University Archives or major libraries. The last decade has also seen a fantastic output of Columbia related scholarship. Unfortunately there are still a lot of gaps. For example, thanks to copyright law, anything printed 1923 or later can't be freely made available by Google. With that in mind we hope the following is helpful.
Using Google and the internet to your advantage
Googling things is a useful exercise in general. But you need to be able to filter. The appropriate use of quotation marks to bracket together phrases might lead you to more on-point material (e.g. searching for columbia university will return hits for any page with those two words anywhere on the page as in "Columbia, Missouri has an excellent university", but searching for "columbia university" narrows the results to pages with that exact phrase only).
Similarly, you can use Google to sniff a particular online resource that lacks a dedicated search function or has a crappy one by starting off your search with, e.g. "site:www.columbiaspectator.com" (without the quotation marks) followed by a space and then your search term. This is a great way to search other sources that are limited to a particular directory, e.g. columbia.edu/cu/record, for The Record. With targeted searches like this, you have your best chance at searching a particular source.
Google Books is a whole 'nother beast unto itself. The frustrating part will be finding sources that Google has indexed and can return in the results, but are copyrighted and can't be displayed. Fortunately, you can probably remedy this by walking to either the University Archives or Microform Reading Room in Butler Library. Fortunately, a number of older books and periodicals are available online in full. The real beauty of Google Books is the ability to run powerful searches on this vast body of literature to find relevant results. The trade-off is that for a vast swath of 20th century history, Google will be of little aid to you for performing armchair research, and can only help you build a list of materials to request when you visit Butler.
The New York Times website is another great source for historical research. The website has indexed issues back through 1851 and lets you look at clippings for free up through 1923.
Another powerful tool is Archive.org. If you find a dead link (other than a Spec link, believe me, we've tried it on those and it doesn't work) or would like to see how a web page evolved over time, the Wayback Machine is an incredibly awesome tool. (This is also why it's important to leave a link to your source when writing. Even if the page dies, archive.org may have it backed up.)
- The Record - Columbia's official periodic campus newspaper. It's the print organ of Columbia's Office of Communications and Public Affairs. The Record has been published since the Fall of 1975, but you can find largely intact, though incomplete, archives from Fall of 1994 to present online. These are great for researching bureaucratuc and administrative developments, including fundraising, major campus news, etc. from the last 19 years.
- ColumbiaNews - Columbia's news releases that are direct-to-web are filed under the ColumbiaNews Archives (with some ovelap with the Record). These are useful for recent history, with archives dating back to June 2008.
- Columbia University Bulletin and Columbia University Quarterly - Columbia news magazines, first started as a magazine of faculty activity in 1890 before developing into a quarterly news magazine. Absolutely stellar sources of news of Columbia at the turn of the 20th century, just as it was becoming a University, moving to Morningside, etc. You'll find articles describing in detail the new buildings to be built, as well as historical articles that attempt to piece together narratives about slices of Columbia life - e.g. on King's College, on the History of Student Publications, Student Theatre Productions, etc. The entirety of the Bulletin's 8 year run is available on Google Books, with only sporadic availability of the Quarterly, unfortunately. The Quarterly ceased publication in 1941.
- Columbia Alumni News - Another old time publication. A number of early 20th century volumes are available in their entirety on Google Books. It was printed weekly from 1909-1957. Overlaps a little with the Quarterly. Has more day to day news like athletics scores and administrative moves.
- Columbia College Today - CC's alumni magazine, in publication since fall 1954. Website has back issues through Winter 1999, and a pdf of the controversial spring 1968 "Six Weeks That Shook Morningside" issue. The library is missing some back issues. Another source for administrative news, alumni stories, slice-of-campus-life stories, and tidbits of information.
- Columbia magazine - Quarterly university magazine that began publication in 1978. Probably a successor to the University Quarterly. Its online archives ostensibly go back to 2000, but they don't look comprehensive for the earlier issues.
- Columbia.edu - Recently, Columbia changed the search engine on its front page search box to google. Running a search from this box crawls the entire Columbia web-o-sphere. You never know what you might turn up or where information might be hidden on a Columbia server. This is actually a pretty good, though overlooked, resource. In the old days you needed to run a site:columbia.edu search on google. No more!
- Columbia University Statistical Abstract - Published by OPIR, this is the holy grail of pure data. Head counts in every division, admissions info, numbers students in majors, faculty distribution, etc. The Statistical Abstract is a thing of joy. Unfortunately, the website seems to have been scrubbed graduate school admissions data. But as we just explained above, Archive.org is a wonderful thing. See what we mean?
- Annual Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Columbia College - Published for the first time in 1848 by students as a forerunner to The Columbian, then taken over by the administration under various names and published as what we might now call a course catalog or school bulletin. Pure raw information, published on an annual basis. Yum. Sporadic volumes are online thanks to google..
- Annual Reports of the President to the Trustees - Since President Barnard's tenure, Presidents have delivered reports, sometimes annually, sometimes not. Depending on the era, the reports range from highly granular to fluffy. Reports from the Barnard, Low, and Butler era have lots of raw information in them. More recent reports tend to be fluffier marketing pieces. Sporadic old volumes are online, as well as some material from the Rupp and Bollinger tenures.
- Resolutions of the Trustees - The Trustees pass resolutions. Compilations of bound volumes of the resolutions from the 19th century are online.
- University Statutes - These are the body of rules and regulations promulgated by the Trustees that give life to Columbia. Lots to be learned from old versions.
- Alumni Directories - Today Columbia publishes a directory of alumni online and in print. In the old days Columbia used to print a massive catalog of all officers and graduates of the University. Google books has 10 editions of this irregularly printed catalog from 1836-1916 online.
- Columbia Daily Spectator - Yes, the Spectator is a source too. While their web archives only date back to 2000 and are notoriously unstable, the Spec recently completed a digitization of a good chunk of their 20th century printings, which are finally available online. In addition, a few very old volumes are on Google Books. If you cite to a Spec article, PLEASE PLEASE include the full title and date in the citation in case the link breaks. You will find a number of broken spec links throughout this site. When you find them, please try to update them. If you cannot find the current link, LEAVE THE OLD ONE. We may be able to figure out the source at a later date. Spectator's website search function is pretty lousy. Use Google and prefix your search with site:columbiaspectator.com to save yourself the headache. Luckily for you, if you want to look up anything older than 2000, you no longer have to do it the old fashioned way by going to the Microform and Periodicals reading room on the 4th floor of Butler and learning to operate the microform reading machines, as the hoary WikiCU founders had to. Spectator's forerunner, Acta Columbiana, isn't available online at all, unfortunately. You'll have to hit the Archives to read them.
- The Columbian - Columbia yearbooks of old tended to have lots of photos and "class history" type details. If you look at some volumes from the 50s and 60s, you'll be envious of some of the production value details. Via Google Books a few old volumes of the Columbian are scanned. You'll also find a number of volumes of its predecessors, The Columbiad (for CC) and The Columbia Engineer (obviously for SEAS). The Archives has a full run for you to go and look at, but if you want to learn about late 19th century Columbia, the editions available on google books give you a good window into the past.
- Bwog - Since the 2012 redesign, much has been lost. You'll want to use Google site-searches, especially if your target is pre-2008, when the URL naming conventions changed. Nonetheless: between 2008 and 2012, Bwog is pretty comprehensive.
- The Blue and White - Issues back to 2005 can sporadically be found online. Earlier issues, all the way back to 1980, are in the University Archives.
Books about Columbia
There are plenty of Books about Columbia, and a number of the older history books are in the public domain and available on Google Books. We try to keep track of them on their own page as a bibliography of sorts. We'll probably add a periodicals section to the page eventually to cover some of the stuff mentioned here.
In particular though we want to focus your attention on a few recent works that are considered 'canonical' among some of the "older" WikiCU writers.
- Stand, Columbia, by Prof. Robert McCaughey - A number of history books have been written about Columbia in its 250 year history. You can read some of the turn of the century volumes for an interesting trip back in time. But McCaughey's work is a must-read primer. It's an interpretive history, and McCaughey thus has a narrative and thesis that he weaves. Nevertheless, the work covers a lot of ground and sheds light on a number of aspects of Columbia's history that might get overlooked by focusing just on recent history or early history alone. A number of WikiCU writers are products of McCaughey's old "Social History of Columbia University" class, and a number of projects for their class have found there way onto this site one way or another. It is safe to say that much of the "historical" work on this archive was inspired by his class. Be sure to also check out the online appendices , and the website for McCaughey's University Seminar on Columbia's History  which has wonderful presentation notes and outlines on different subjects.
- Morningside Heights, by Prof. Andrew Dolkart - The authority on architecture in and around Columbia, from the neighborhood's beginning, to recent times. While McCaughey's work by necessity touches on the topic of buildings and land, he doesn't go into the loving detail that Dolkart, an architectual historian, does.
- Mastering McKim's Plan, by Prof. Barry Bergdoll - An absolutley gorgeous work that focuses solely on the development of the master plan for Columbia's campus executed by architect Charles McKim, rather than the broader neighborhood history that Dolkart delves into. Check out this book for the stunning artwork if nothing else.
Besides their books, these Professors are persons you can direct questions to in person, as they're all current Columbia faculty.
- AIA Guide to New York City - the newly released 2010 edition of the architecture guide is partly on Google Books, but it might be worth taking a peek at a paper copy, especially since much of the Columbia section is blocked.
- Hindsight to Foresight: From the Founding to the Future of Five Ivy League Campuses by Robert Spencer Barnett - 2012 ebook published by the Society for Campus and University Planning with a wealth of information on Columbia and other Ivy League architecture
There are books, there are Google Books, and then there are the University Archives and the Columbiana Collection. We cannot stress enough that the archives should be your second stop after scouring the internet for clues (if not the first stop in some instances) because there's so much material that's simply not on the internet. Either it's under copyright, or they're clippings in subject files, personal notes and correspondences, photographs, etc. There is an amazing amount of material for perusal here, including full runs of some of the periodicals mentioned here. To top it all off, the archivists are really nice people.
Best practices and suggestions for citations and footnotes
Citing to sources is tricky business. We're not demanding that you follow The MLA Style Manual, the The Chicago Manual of Style, or, heaven forfend, The Bluebook. Sometimes the goal of good citation guidelines gets lost amind the forest of technical requirements: making sure that a reader can find the (precise) source you're referring to. For websites, a URL and an appropriately descriptive page title generally does the trick. For an online periodical (The Spec, the NYTimes, etc.) a url, plus article title, and the date make a big difference. For published materials, the title, author, year of publication, and pages are a good starting point. Add additional details if it's helpful!
Similarly, sometimes it's best to explain where you heard something or why you're stating something as fact (or why you're qualifying a statement) in a footnote. It's better to provide more information rather than letting a reader reach an unsupported conclusion.
Ideally, use the wiki reference html tag and let the wiki auto-populate a footnote section. To do this, place a <ref> Footnote Text </ref> opening and closing tag where you want a footnote reference number to appear in an article — type the text of the note between the ref tags. URLs should be placed between brackets with the descriptive page title immediately following after a space like so: [www.url.com Article about Something, The Spectator, 1 Jan 2010]. You can put a URL link inside a reference tag.
When you're done, stick this at the bottom of the entire article: <references/>.
If you're not sure how to do footnotes or are uncomfortable, please at the very least stick whatever links or notes you have in an "External links" section (you can create sections by typing e.g. == External links ==). We cannot stress this enough. So much of what we think we know about Columbia is hearsay, inferential, or even conflicting. Unless it's coming from one of the few canonical works we have (e.g. McCaughey and Dolkart's books), having links to the sources makes sorting things out easier as we learn more.
In the course of researching one topic, if you find some tangential reference intriguing, bookmark it. Maybe create a page without content on the wiki but leave a note about what you found and where. Either you'll come back to it later, or someone else will.