Meet People and Learn Things
Doing research using the Web, library, etc.
Comtesse AnneAliz de Bâle, Mistress of the Pelican
April 12, 2007
First, research is not documentation. Documentation is the recording of information, often in written form. Documentation may be produced for others (i.e., for competitions or Queen’s Prize), or for yourself. Noting the source of information is a simple form of documentation.
In its simplest form research is a systematic (or purposeful) investigation. Systematic is an important part of this definition. Just reading a randomly chosen book on a topic isn’t really doing research on the topic.
Often you are doing research for: a paper, a project, an A&S competition, etc. This may be important to you, or even required for some other thing you want to do. Another perspective is to do research on: a topic of interest, some area you’ve never looked at before, another perspective on something you think you already know, etc. This isn’t done for some immediate purpose. It is done to gain insight, grounding or knowledge. Learning for the joy of it is usually far more rewarding than learning because you have to.
Document things that get your attention. Don’t worry if they weren’t what you were looking for at the time. Years later, something that inspired, confused or amused you may end up connecting in some powerful way to something that you can not even imagine now. Many times I have failed to document something because I thought I’d never need that information again. Sometimes I’ve been able to find a source again, but often I haven’t. Especially for those fortuitous finds in the midst of a completely different subject finding the original source can be nearly impossible.
Libraries — Libraries have a variety of reference materials such as books, prints, microfiche, recordings, etc. Librarians are great sources of information, and can help with searches (keywords, databases) and details about their library (location of materials, times, special collections, ILL, etc). Most local libraries have web pages that allow for online searches of available materials. Inter-Library Loan (ILL) may be an important resource for you especially if you are researching a very narrow or unusual topic.
Internet — The internet can be a great source of information, but you have to be careful. Anyone can make a personal web page, and the quality of the information on the web varies greatly. Like with any source be wary of any web page that uses words like ‘never’ or ‘always’.
People — Others who have studied a topic can be of great help to you in focusing your research. In the barony there are many people who might be able to suggest directions you might want to take, or resources you might want to look into which will help you move forward in your research. Don’t just look to peers, six months ago Tana knew a lot about hats, and clothing and scribal arts and ….
‘Re-creation’ — After researching some topic you might use that information to produce something. Using that item may help you to refine your process, and may also help you to select your future references, or re-interpret references you already are familiar with.
Books will often be your best first sources. They are usually fact-checked prior to publication. Author information is also generally available. Authors can also be researched online.
Journal articles are a great source, but like other scholarly works may be dense and a bit hard to get into. Many authors have links to their articles on their web pages.
Recordings, tapes and videos can be found in libraries and online. For music, dance and other expressive arts these can be very important resources.
Primary sources may offer a different perspective than secondary sources. They may require more background knowledge in order to understand them as compared to secondary sources. However, secondary sources will give you someone else’s perspective and biases on a topic. Sometimes an author will reveal held biases, sometimes not. So, it is usually worth the effort to get into primary sources.
Different translations can offer different insights into a text. Some translations may use more modern language, while others may use language closer to the original language of the text.
You may find inspiration almost anywhere, art in a picture book, or on a birthday card, good historical fiction, ‘bad’ historical fiction, movies (even atrocious ones like First Knight). Remember that where you start is not a great indication of where you end up. Even poorly researched sources may inspire you to go do your own research. You might find (to your joy or disappointment) that what you read, saw or heard wasn't real.
You don’t have to be a UNM student to use the UNM libraries. A Community Borrowers Card (CBC) is available to members of the community for $35 per year. It is available at Zimmerman circulation (please bring cash or check, as credit cards are not accepted). With this card community members can borrow up to 10 books (or other materials) for two weeks. This card is usable at any of the main campus UNM libraries. The CBC does not give access to ILL. University students, staff and faculty can use Inter-Library Loan (ILL) for free. Journal articles and book chapters are normally made available in electronic form. The last few articles I requested through ILL were available in about 24 hours.
Zimmerman Library (history, social sciences, etc) http://elibrary.unm.edu/zimmerman/index.php
Fine Arts Library (art, architecture, music, dance, etc) http://elibrary.unm.edu/falref/
Centennial Library has the science and engineering materials.
Parish Library is the business library. (Parish has state and federal tax forms.)
There are different library specialists for each broad area of holdings in the UNM library system. You can find the name, number and email of the specialists along with other useful information on the web page for each library.
Albuquerque Bernalillo County Libraries
There are over a dozen libraries in the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library system. They are located all throughout the city, and in Tijeras. Materials can be requested online, and picked up at the most conveniently located library. ILL is available to library patrons for free or a small fee.
Libraries main page http://www.cabq.gov/library/
There are many search engines available online. I prefer to use Google most of the time. Google allows for several different types of searches. Some of the types of searches include Images, Video, Scholar, Patent Search, Book Search, Directory and Specialized Searches. On most machines Images and Video will be options on the initial Google search page. For other types of searches you will probably need to choose “more”, or “even more” to get to the pages that show those options. Under Specialized Searches you can limit searches to specific Universities. Scholar search limits the search to scholarly works (books, articles, etc). Book Search allows you to search for full texts online. Notebook is a new option on Google. It allows users to “Clip and collect information as you browse the web” http://www.google.com/intl/en/options/
Once you have done an initial search you can select ‘Advanced Search’ (usually in small print just to the right of the ‘search’ button. Advance Search allows you to refine your search in many different ways. Three interesting options are Similar, Links and Date. Similar allows you to find pages similar to a certain page. Links allows you to find pages that link to a certain page. Date allows you to select web pages that were updated in a specified period of time (3 months, 6 months, or a year).
In the Q&A, Countess AnneAliz mentioned the curiosity turned to obsession turned to book of Erika who learned naalbinding. Here is her site: http://www.copioussparetime.com/ If you follow the links, you can find photos, history, instructions, and clear enthusiasm for her topic.
Those present: Viviana, Jayne, Mistress Beatricia, Amy, Bardolf, Beatrice of Shadowskeep, Asta, Kendrick McPherson, and Ælflæd
Photos by Ælflæd, Asta and Bardolf