12.06.2007

Of final papers, technology, cabbages and kings

Since it is the time of year when we Comp Lit students turn our minds towards final papers worth most of our semester grade, I thought I might share some alternative technological research tips.

By now we all have off-campus library pins, and if we don't, we should. It allows those of us who live off-campus to do our research into the MLA International Bibliography, Literature Online (LION), JSTOR, Project Muse, ProQuest Dissertations an Theses, etc in our pajamas at 3am. We've probably discovered Google Scholar, which allows us to search some journal articles and books, and Google Books which allows us to search and view some pages of books which we can add to our research "library". Maybe you've used Link+ to borrow books from other schools in CA and NV, or you've used ILLiad to request an article in a publication that isn't available in our library. Maybe you've looked at ABEbooks, a consortium of over 10,000 private book sellers with a Book Finder feature, or Alibris, a front-end for thousands of international independent book sellers, to track down a copy.

But have you tried the following tricks?

Amazon
Amazon, like Google Books, frequently allows you to search inside books and view whole pages. Unlike Google Books, they are a bit more lenient and will often allow you to view up to 10 consecutive pages, so you'll know if it's actually useful enough to be worth tracking down.

E-mail
In one lower div class, I was reading Lysistrata and the instructor hadn't thought to specify a translation, so half the class was reading one version and the rest of the class another. Predictably, questions came up about why certain choices were made, particularly, why did the British translator make the "hick", rural, warrior Spartans have a Scottish accent and the American make them Appalachian? (As a West Coaster, I'd have probably gone Texan. Sorry Melina!) I was working on writing a paper filled with all sorts of suppositions about why these choices were made, when I decided to just google the name and e-mail the translator, who was still teaching (at Texas A&M, which answered that question).

Similarly, I had a translated poem by a (back then still) Yugoslavian poet and was trying to find an additional English translation. After the split, she became a Serbian peace activist and English translator and had a readily accessible e-mail address. She responded there wasn't another translation that she knew of, but that she'd never seen the one I had, so could I send her a copy of the book.

Craigslist
So what do you do when you've tried everything? You've used all of the databases, checked all of the libraries, and after 6 hours of tracking it down find that the poem you need is only printed in one rare, weird book from 1682, and the only copy is in one private appointment-only library in the US, and only one college in the state of California has access to an electronic copy. What now? Post it to their local craigslist and ask someone to look it up for you. (I put it in writing gigs, based on the principle that literature students who spend a lot of time reseaching in the library probably cruise the writing gigs boards for petty cash jobs for editing and such. I had 3 responses in less than 12 hours.)

Now that you're done...
So, you've managed to research the heck out of your thesis, written a paper, submitted it to your prof, and finished the semester, now what are you going to do? Submit it to Portals!