Posts Tagged ‘research process’

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Research Workflow and Digital Texts

July 13, 2011

I continue to be interested in academic workflows in general, and how digital tools and texts are being incorporated (or not incorporated) into them.  I’ve written up a first draft of an essay on the project I and some colleagues did with Kindles in an English class this past spring, and am currently most struck by the responses of those students who struggled with the immateriality of a digital book.  Some students took to the Kindle like a duck to water, but others (in surveys) wrote of their disorientation within the e-book, because of their ingrained habit of dealing with books as material objects as well as content containers.

Two interesting essays I’ve read recently on this topic are available open-access:

Cull, Barry W., 2011. “Reading revolutions: Online digital text and implications for reading in academe, ” First Monday 16: 6, at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3340/2985

Hillesund, Terje, 2010. “Digital reading spaces: How expert readers handle books, the Web, and electronic paper,” First Monday 15: 4, at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2762/2504

A recent Institute of Classical Studies (London) Digital Classicist Seminar was not specifically focused on reading of digital texts, but took a broader approach to discussing the research practices of academics, and specifically classicists and archaeologists, among others.  Agiatis Benardou spoke on a project that conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 scholars as an attempt to understand their research workflows (as part of planning for a European project to create digital research infrastructure.) I haven’t had the time to listen to the audio of the seminar, which is available as a link, but the introduction, the tweets from the session and the slides available in .pdf all are quite interesting.

It’s a basic principle of librarianship that understanding the patron’s needs is paramount (Ranganathan, “Every reader his book,”), and it’s exciting to see that those developing digital research tools are first seeking to understand user needs and existing practices, before tool development even begins. While we can and do expect user behaviors to change as a result of new technologies – and some of my reluctant Kindle readers will probably figure out a way to feel at home with an e-book as they become more common – it’s also important to know where your users are, and not just where you want them to be going.

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Resource Review: Handbook for Classical Research

October 19, 2010

The Classics Department recently purchased David M. Schaps, Handbook for Classical Research (Routledge, 2010) for the Alexander Room collection.

Illustration of book coverThis book serves as an introduction to Classical Studies research and  its various subfields.  It seems designed to accompany a proseminar for beginning graduate students, the sort of once-a-week, one credit hour seminar that many departments (UGA included) hold for new graduate students in their first semester.  As such it is useful – oftentimes graduate proseminars are a mixture of broad and narrow topics, more dictated by the research interests of departmental faculty than guided by a comprehensive approach to introducing the various sub-disciplines of Classics and the quirks of their research methods and research resources (topics include such diverse things as approaching research questions and understanding the notations used to describe coins).  This useful content  is organized well.  There are 30 chapters, divided into 4 sections (a table of contents is available at the Worldcat page, linked above under the title), so one could cover 2-3 topics a week in a 15-week proseminar.

The book has an unusually personal and chatty ‘voice’ that did not work very well for this reader.  It is not the sort of book many would want to sit down and read straight through, but neither is it really designed as a reference work to be kept on the shelf and consulted at need.  (Although each chapter has a section on “Major Resources”, the author explicitly notes that his coverage of bibliography will not be comprehensive, and recommends Fred W. Jenkins, Classical Studies: A Guide to the Reference Literature (Libraries Unlimited, 2006) as a bibliographic resource, as do I.)  This erstwhile classical archaeologist did a bit of eye-rolling at the sub-head beginning Chapter 10, “Classics Is Almost Entirely Literature,” although archaeology is covered reasonably well (one can always quibble the most about one’s own topic of expertise!)

The book is listed at $130 in hardcover, and $37.95 in paperback.  I would recommend it more for someone organizing a graduate proseminar in Classics than attending one; libraries with graduate Classics departments will rightly purchase it.  If you are a Classics grad student short on funds, I would purchase Jenkins (citation above, listed at $60 but available used for under $20, make sure you get the 2006 edition, not the 1996) over this volume.  (If you are a Classics grad student with too much money, please take your classmates out to dinner.)

I have not found any reviews of this work yet, although there was some discussion of the book on the list-serv Classics-L (search the archives for “schaps handbook” and you’ll find a few comments).  If you know of reviews, please link or cite in comments.