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University of Oregon
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PPPM 657 Research Methods Equity Analysis Resources

Locating Resources in UO, Online, and elsewhere to draft an Equity Analysis Report for a city or county to inform land use and transportation planning

Language and Terminology

While using old newspapers and other digital archives you may find language and terminology that is old-fashioned, unfamiliar, and potentially offensive. Newspapers and documents reflect the language commonly used in the period in which they were written. To that end, you need to think about the words and phrases that you choose to conduct your search.

The terms used to describe certain ethnic and cultural groups have changed significantly over the centuries.  For example, in 19th century newspapers, Native Americans (indigenous peoples, first peoples) were commonly referred to as "Indians" and often the names of individual tribes were not specified.  A search using the region or location of a particular cultural group and the term "Indian" may yield more results. Searches for derogatory terms such as "squaw" may yield additional relevant results. Likewise the terms used for dark-skinned people of African descent have changed over the years.  Depending on the time frame you are researching you may have more success using "black," "african-american," "colored" (or "coloured"), or "negro(es)".

Think carefully about the terminology you use to formulate your search.  Don't be afraid to explore using outdated terms which may be considered derogatory if the terms were in common use during the time you are searching for sources.  The more time you spend searching archives looking for primary resources, the more familiar you will become with the variety of terms that might be relevant to your research, as well as idiosyncrasies such as non-standard spelling. 

Online archives of Oregon Newspapers