Monday, November 16, 2009


I just spent some time helping a student find some early modern texts. S/he'd "looked" but hadn't found many on the list s/he'd put together from another resource of texts that might be useful. And so I helped.

There are tricks to finding early modern texts. You have to be willing to play fast and loose with spelling, and switching "v" and "u" typographically (along with "i" and "J" and "w" and "vv"; the name "doubleyou" makes a lot more sense when I think about "u" and "v" being different back then.)

But the most important trick is that you have to be willing to try this and that in different ways; you have to be willing to bang your head about the search engine (and praise be for search engines, because it's softer than banging my head against a card catalog!) for a while.

I know my students have to learn to be persistent about research. But these are the same students who probably parse their dps in WoW or tell me the exact ERA for their favorite pitcher or tell me exactly which shade of nail polish J.Lo wears. The information they care about, they'll put in the time to find or figure out.

The good thing is that I get to feel a little useful.


  1. Anonymous3:03 PM

    It's funny how they can find all of this non-academic stuff, but ask for something related to class, and they fall apart. It really is an odd variation on a skill they already have, and when they are unsure of themselves they give up so easily, thinking they're incompetent. I refer to it as "library roulette" in my own mind, and have taken to using the term with my students to help them to realize how seemingly random it can be. And how strangely rewarding when the perfect source finally pops up!

  2. Oh, I had a great session with a student today who's quite good but was stymied looking for some specific themes in scholarship on some early modern textual traditions. It doesn't help that most of what I see out there is in book form (i.e. too slow to get to our library to help her flesh out this term's research paper) and almost none in the conventional databases. But a shift out of the History databases in our library's partitioning and over to English or Women's Studies? Sure helped a lot!

    Knowing where to look as well as the tricks of researching? It's a good thing!