Greetings fellow researchers:
As you know, tracking down library resources is an integral part of any dissertation writing process. Though it may be a bit tedious at times, I have found the following tips useful in saving time (and errors):
#1 – Copy the title page of the book before you make copies of individual pages
Before you copy a section of pages from a resource, copy the title page first and then add the copies of sections or pages after that.
I have sometimes come home from a long session of making multiple copies only to have no idea which sets belonged to which books.
NOTE: Save money and trees: Some libraries allow you to scan and e-mail copies to yourself at no cost.
#2 – Make sure you are using the most recent edition of a book
Books go through major revisions and updates all of the time. Ensure that you are using the most recent editions in your writing.
When searching through a catalog (I use Worldcat.org for my general searches), you can specify a sort by “Date (Newest First)” so the most recent editions are listed at the top.
NOTE: Regardless of which edition you use, you must remain consistent in your use of that edition. Your bibliographic information and footnote pages will likely change between editions. You don’t want to be quoting material and footnoting text from the same book, but different editions.
#3 – The tags on your bibliographic software are your best friends
Let’s face it. Writing a dissertation requires that you keep track of multiple elements on multiple levels. No system is fool-proof such that something doesn’t fall through the cracks.
But using “tags” on your bibliographic records provides you with tremendous flexibility. Two of my favorite tags are: 1) Need to check out and 2) Requires action.
As I am collating my bibliographic data and think a resource may be useful, I immediately tag it with “Need to check out” tag. When I arrive at the library I select that tag and have a ready list of books that I have to track down. (This allows you to batch your trips to the library or to the book stacks.)
My “requires action” tag (with accompanying notes or instructions) immediately reminds me why I have an interest in looking more closely at this resource. Actual reminders include:
- Review Cadbury’s contribution to the Miletus Speech
- Compare literature review of this book to my own
- Verify the PDF file source
Other useful tags include: 1) Verified bibliography info (Sometimes, the automatically downloaded data does not come through very clean) and 2) Name of library (This can save you the hassle of repeatedly looking through a library’s card catalog.)
#4 – Save the call number in you bibliographic software
There should be a field in your bibliographic record to save the call number of a book or resource. Do it! Look it up, enter it in the field and save it.
Later on, you can create a report showing the book titles you need to track down and their call numbers (Zotero has this function.) This task is even easier if you have tagged the books with “Need to check out” and search accordingly.
Well that about wraps up the tips on tracking down resources.
It’s not the most glamorous task we have to do as researchers, but at least we can try to minimize the pain and errors connected to it.