Sifting through thoughts: Duke Ellington as described from a database

Duke Ellington, 1946

Because of today’s technological advancements, researchers have access to more diverse digital data and resources than ever before, accessible from almost anywhere.

However, with abundant sources of information, clusters of data, and stacks of ideas, finding results that relate to or expand upon a specific research question may be difficult.

So how can a researcher conduct successful searches that produce relevant, cohesive results from which to derive a narrower hypothesis?

In this post, I will walk through the steps of the research process while conducting real research pertaining to the New Deal era.

First, what do I want to know about the New Deal? The first things that come to mind when I think of the era’s culture are music, jazz, and Duke Ellington. My question is this: How did Duke Ellington’s music impact New Deal era culture?

Research generally requires a realiable database. I chose this database from the Library of Congress so that I can locate primary source newspaper articles in the United States, in all states or only select states, during a certain range of time, on a subject which I must fill in.

As pictured above, I chose to search articles within the years 1929 to 1943 in all states, with the name Duke Ellington as my first search. This narrows down the pool of articles relevant to my topic, which I can then refine once I understand available resources.

Immediately, my search returns 1,055 results, each of which contains the red highlighted text “Duke Ellington,” somewhere within the article. And though I could continue to refine my search, I believe that with my findings I can form a research question.

An article introducing Duke Ellington to the public eye
An article containing references of Duke Ellington’s contribution to increased business

What role did Duke Ellington play in redefining music culture and enjoyment? According to these articles, Ellington’s music not only increased attendance at shows1 and was compared to one of the top performers at the time. 2

By conducting specific searches within a database, formulating research questions with cohesive results can open doors to new discoveries.

  1. The Indianapolis times. [volume], August 24, 1935, Home Edition, Page PAGE 9, Image 9. Retrieved from
  2. The Phoenix index., June 28, 1941, Page PAGE SEVEN, Image . Retrieved from

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