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University Libraries’ Digital Research Topics Supports Academic Achievement

Fri, 10/16/2020 - 14:24pm | By: David Tisdale

Freedom Means: Vote for Fannie Lou HamerStudents seeking assistance identifying research topics and accompanying information have an invaluable resource with an initiative launched and managed by Special Collections in The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) University Libraries.

Digital Research Topics includes a wide variety of topics, with new ones being added going forward, featuring digitized primary sources, that can help students get started on research projects. These topics include anti-communism efforts in Mississippi, the prohibition and temperance movements, voter registration and poll taxes during the civil rights movement era, among others.

“While working from home due to COVID restrictions, I was trying to think of ways we could reach out to students who were in the same situation,’ said Jennifer Brannock, professor and curator of Rare Books & Mississippiana, who proposed the initiative and is working with other Special Collections faculty and staff to develop topic offerings. “With so many students accessing our collections from home, I knew it needed to be an online feature.”

Brannock said one aspect of the initiative is the grouping of digitized primary sources by topic with the goal of stimulating research.

“To shake up the current digital collections model of searching and browsing, I thought it would be helpful to student researchers to provide access to curated primary sources by topic, and by having select materials divided by subject, it forces students to look at the materials as a whole, not just as individual items.”

When the proposal for Digital Research Topics was approved, Brannock began compiling a list of possible topics with the help of her colleagues. “I appreciate the support of Special Collections staff and those in Digital Lab who helped make this happen,” she said.

Digital Research Topics will be a continuing feature, with new topics created periodically to be highlighted. Each topic includes a general summary; when clicking on the “View Materials” link, visitors to the site will be taken to a list of items on that topic. The current digital research topics can be found at

In University Libraries’ digital collections, materials can be searched or browsed by major collection (Mississippiana, de Grummond, University Archives, etc.).

“It’s an unprecedented time when everyone is having to rely even more on finding resources online,” Brannock continued. “These digital research topics will help students get started with a handful of resources that can inspire their research. We obviously have many more topics to cover, but these topics are a great place to start.”

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