Ramblin Spokes, Civil War author: Beware the archive!
I am always surprised when some author mentions visits to "the archive," as if this is going to help research in some way. Your reader has an archive, don't you know? And if you pop a weird fact on him, he will go to his own archive, a shelf full of best-selling books, to check you out.
And you will FAIL every such fact check every time.
Research all you want, any way you want, but at the end of your writing, you must check your manuscript against a stack of best sellers to VALIDATE your work. That is the only way to avoid serious embarrassment.
Someone may object, "Well what if best sellers don't agree on some point." I have never seen that happen, have you? Let us, for the sake of argument, say they did. How would you resolve that? You would run with the author who had sold more than the other author!
Pretty simple, right?
Well what if some mass medium puts out Fact A and some best seller puts out Fact B? How can you determine the truth?
Here is an example of one such dilemma. National Public Radio says "When a group of 11 Southern states tried to secede from the union in 1860, Abraham Lincoln said, you can't do that." I am checking Team of Rivals and it says James Buchanan was president in 1860. Problem! I am checking Battle Cry of Freedom and it tells me only one state had seceded in 1860. Another problem!
This NPR show probably had hundreds of thousands of listeners. But Team of Rivals and Battle Cry of Freedom had more readers combined than the NPR show has listeners. That is how we get at the truth.
It's not brain surgery, my friends, so do your research right.