Search Tips for Research and Outreach

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (German Digital Library) is a versatile resource for research, teaching and outreach. Through the cross-database search, users have access to Germany's digitised heritage of culture and knowledge – millions of books, archives, newspapers, works of art, photographs, sound documents, films and scores.

In this introduction, we explain how you can find a specific object or search for a topic and openly research it. In addition, you will learn more about the reusage of researched objects and give tips that are especially relevant for lecturers.

Most often, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is used to search for a specific object. Instead of researching on site in libraries, museums or archives, search from the comfort of your desk. Germany-wide, without necessary knowledge of the respective location.
For example, if you are looking for the „Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte (Collected Essays on Social and Economic History)" by Max Weber, you will find it in the German Digital Library and can directly start reading the work online.

However, not only the original work by Max Weber is listed, but also texts that refer to it – such as reviews documented in libraries throughout Germany. Use our filter functions to limit the number of search results or adapt them to your research focus.

Important: The digitised work is not provided directly by the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, but by the institution that provides the data. In this case, three institutions offer access to this work: the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), the Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln (University and City Library of Cologne) and the SSOAR (Social Science Open Access Repository). If you click on one of the results, you will first be redirected to the object page with more information (metadata). Here you will also find information on the copyright status of the work.
We explain basics about the structure of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, about search functions and showing and downloading objects in more detail in our Search Tips for Getting Started.

Search by topic and open research

In addition to searching for and finding specific objects, you can also use the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek as a topic-related research tool.

The exploratory search can be particularly helpful if you want to get an overview of digital holdings on a topic without a concrete object reference. In this way, you will also find references to institutions that have relevant materials on your topic. In particular, the holdings of smaller institutions can be found in a central location thanks to the portal, and thus also, for example, non-canonical works.

Let's take a look at an exploratory research on the history of migration in Germany.

1. Define search terms

First, it is necessary to define relevant search terms. You should make sure to use a number of different search terms for each topic in order to be able to take a broad look at the searchable stocks with their quite diverse designation and keyword. Especially in the case of historical topics, it is important to include the terms for an object or circumstance that have changed over time in the search.

For our search topic, this means: In addition to the keywords migration and immigration, use terms such as emigration if you are not only looking in documents and works of recent date, but also researching, for example, the history of migration around 1900. So you get a variety of hits on contemporary primary sources. In order to systematically limit the high number of results, it is advisable to use filters.

2. Use filter functions

For exploratory research, the use of various filter functions is recommended, in particular the filters Object Type, Media Type, Sector and Data Provider. Note that not all filter options are displayed directly: By clicking on Display more filter options, you can open all available search filters.

Note on the filter functions: Our data partners use typical information in their metadata that follows the systematics of their respective institution. For you and your research, this may mean that you may find synonymous terms in the Object Type filter, such as photography, photos, photo shooting or stereophotography.

Suchfilter Objekttyp.gif

Using the Data Provider filter, you can find out which facility has a particularly large number of (digitised) objects on your topic in stock and, if necessary, provides them as digitised copies. It is often possible to deduce which institutions are particularly relevant to a topic.

In our example search for migration, immigration and emigration, for example, it is noticeable that the State Archives of Baden-Württemberg have almost 1,800 object hits – predominantly to personal files, such as applications for emigration.

Suchfilter Datenpartner

The Time filter can be used to narrow hits to specific examination periods. For technical reasons, specific start and end dates (day/month/year) must be specified here.

3. Customise search terms

In addition to selecting (combined) search terms and using filter options, you can refine your search results in a targeted manner. For example, if you are interested in historical figures and statistics on migration movements around 1900, you can add the term statistics to the search term emigration. Here you will find research literature on the one hand, but also historical statistics on the other, such as the official “Statistics of the Hamburg State”. Besides Bremerhaven, Hamburg was the most important transit point for emigrants – so statistics could be a promising source.

Cache search results

You can save the results of your research in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek in your free user account.

Use search results

The digital copies, which can be searched via the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, can be used in a variety of ways. In particular, the abundance of searchable media and the clear information on rights of use open up possibilities for use in courses, educational offers or publications.

Using the Usability filter function, you can already exclude objects in the search process that are not eligible under license law for the intended purpose. If you are only interested in material that you are allowed to reuse without restriction, select Without Restrictions in the search filter – you will only receive hits with public domain status. Then, select With Restrictions and you will also see material that has one of the numerous Creative Commons licences. The On Request filter function, on the other hand, only shows you objects where you need to request the use directly from the data-providing institution.

Suchfilter Verwendbarkeit

You can find out exactly how the respective object is licensed on its object page: directly below the pictorial representation of the object you can see the license information stored as a link.
In order to avoid data transmission errors, regardless of the licence information on our website, we recommend contacting the data-providing institution, which you can reach by clicking on the Show original at data provider button. If data has not been updated in our portal, you can check the legal status in direct exchange with our data partners.

Rechtstatus und Lizenzen

A more detailed insight into copyright issues in the context of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek can be found in our notes on how to use search results.

Tips especially for lecturers

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek offers a multifaceted didactic potential for students. In the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, independent research can be carried out on a topic in which students come across objects that are often not found in manuals. The easy access to non-canonical documents offers the opportunity to apply the learned analytical tools to previously unknown objects and thus to explore and develop their own explorations and perspectives in the sense of participatory media didactics.

The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is also suitable for research exercises, such as searching for a specific object or an exploratory search on a specific topic.