How to Research Guide

A significant part of the University of Kent’s National Lottery Heritage Funded ‘Digitizing the War Illustrated’ project is to make all 234 issues of this important World War I publication (22nd August 1914-15th February 1919) available for all, for ever, for free via the Internet Archive. This blog post provides background and guidance on using the archive in the following areas:

  1. The War Illustrated (TWI) on the Internet Archive
  2. Searching the August-December section of TWI
  3. Taking insights from this search further
  4. Possible research ideas for working with TWI
  5. General research advice
  6. Some helpful resources/links

1. TWI on the Internet Archive

Due to the high quality of the digitization, the TWI files are too large to upload in yearly sections. Instead, they are present in 6 monthly chunks – e.g. August – December 1914:

You can find the blog post with links to each section here:

A page has been added to the beginning of each section, which lists the page number on which each weekly issue starts. You can move the bar at the bottom of the page to the appropriate number.

On the bottom right, you can see the tools to navigate:

  • (left triangle) flick left/back
  • (right triangle) flick right/forward
  • (one rectangle) select to view as one page
  • (two rectangles) select to view as a double page
  • (four squares) see thumbnails – a wider view which means you can see the page you are looking at in the context of maybe 12 pages or so
  • (speaker) press for the magazine to ‘speak’ to you
  • (left magnifying glass) zoom out
  • (right magnifying glass) zoom in
  • (cross) exit full screen [if not in full screen the symbol with 4 corners allows access to full screen instead]

2. Searching the August-December 1914 section of TWI      

The Internet Archive allows for browsing the issues, but searches can also be performed. These do not, however, always pull up all the right information since they rely on every word in the magazine being clearly recognisable by the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. This is difficult for magazines over a hundred years old as they include imperfections.

I decided to search the August-December 1914 section of TWI for references to Kent. I put the term ‘Kent’ into the search box on the top right hand corner of the page.

The results returned can be seen as ‘blue points’ at the bottom of the page, representing where in the August-December 1914 issues the term has been found.

You can hover over a blue point to get a preview of the page’s content. Clicking on the point takes you to the corresponding page of the correct issue, with the term highlighted in blue. For example, clinking on the first blue point yields this:

You can then zoom in further. The date of the TWI issue can be found in the top right corner (19th September 1914), and the page number is in the top left corner. These are page numbers for consecutive issues, not specific to a single issue.

Right click and save as to save page to the device or folder of your choice.

The most interesting results to me were:

a) those of the men who had been injured or killed who belonged to Kent regiments (blue points 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7)

b) the ‘Something to Smoke’ appeal, which encouraged readers to send money so that men at the front could have cigarettes (blue points 3, 4 (list of names) and 8 from the editor, explaining the appeal)

c) the characterisation of German propaganda as fanciful and amusing (blue point 9)

    3. Taking insights from this search further

Here I briefly outline how some of the above results can be expanded into possible research projects for the August-December 1914 section.

a) The injured and war dead are seen in most issues, and a comparison can be made across these issues, considering how this is presented and who is included as time progresses.

b) Something to Smoke – unfortunately searching for this term resulted in an error message, but ‘to smoke’ found several results. (This reminds us that the OCR is not infallible, and that we sometimes have to be inventive!) This search located some advertisements encouraging people to send money to the fund to send cigarettes to men at the front, as well as lists of those who had subscribed – a canny ploy by the magazine, as people might then be motivated to buy the magazine in order to see their names in print.

c) The mention of Kent in terms of German propaganda is more difficult to place in a context for further research (i.e. this is not as simple as looking for regular listings on injured and killed, or for the term ‘to smoke’), but one could potentially evaluate whether views on this issue changed over time. Perhaps one could search for the term ‘German propaganda’, though maybe broader terms would also be necessary.

In addition to this, of course, one could search for these terms in the other sections of TWI available on the Internet Archive.

I have written up some of my thoughts on these three areas here:




4. Possible research ideas working with TWI         

One could use the various sections of TWI on the Internet Archive to look at:

  • Individuals – whether family members or famous figures – Edith Cavell, HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Olive Dent, royalty, etc.
  • Places – countries, counties
  • Battles – e.g. the Somme
  • Regular features of the magazines and how these change over perhaps a 3 month period, or even for January of each year – covers, adverts, list of injured/killed, diary of the war, etc.
  • A particular issue of the magazine, or perhaps a month’s worth of magazines

5. General research advice                                         

Purpose and scope

What is the purpose of your research? Is it for your own personal interest, or do you hope to present it to others? This may well influence what and how you research – e.g. do you want it to be especially visual? If you have an audience in mind, who are they and what are they likely to respond well to? How big a project do you want to embark on?

Getting started

It’s often useful to start by flicking through issues to get some rough ideas of what may interest you. We started the Women’s War Work project by gathering basic information on some of the magazines and noting the representations of women; we used a spreadsheet to record details from some of the physical copies in terms of: date, volume, issue, number of pages, price, front picture, regular features (which you can only really notice once you’ve looked at a few – some may also not be weekly, but monthly) and mentions of women.

Narrowing your research area and designing your project

What area do you want to research? What do you want to find out? Think of the big picture, but also consider the smaller steps which will help you achieve this –  this makes things seem more manageable. If you have a specific area to research, such as women’s war work, think of useful alternative search terms: ‘women’, ‘woman’, ‘girl’, ‘ladies’, ‘she’, ‘her’, etc.

Research admin

  • Keep records of your searches and results, and/or a research diary.
  • Organise your files and folders (whether physical or on the computer) so you can easily find the relevant material.  
  • Save pages to your computer by right-clicking on them, label these usefully with the date, page number and subject.
  • You may find interesting pages which are not strictly relevant, but these can be saved and perhaps placed in an ‘of interest’ folder.
  • Back up your computer files and folders – email them to yourself, save them on memory sticks or hard drives, consider saving them remotely – to the cloud.


You may wish to triangulate your research by finding other information on individuals – especially the less famous ones in the magazines – for example by searching other databases like the Illustrated War News (see sources/links section).


It’s also a good idea to discuss your findings with people doing similar research – for example via forums, including NoRMMA (comments will be enabled on a dedicated page in due course).

6. Resources and links

WWI history guides, archives, projects and timelines

WWI magazines

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