[Humanist] 29.511 bibliographic wayfinding

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Nov 28 08:31:50 CET 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 511.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 27 Nov 2015 11:33:52 -0500
        From: Ryan Deschamps <ryan.deschamps at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  29.510 bibliographic wayfinding?
        In-Reply-To: <20151127080718.A48416CBD at digitalhumanities.org>


It was great to see this message today as I have been looking for an excuse
to re-connect to the list.

I have a few angles to approach this question. In the world of Library and
Information Studies, this topic is taught as "information behaviour." My
experience with the literature on the topic is that it is mostly anecdotal
and/or theoretical ("every one is different"). The discussion shifted
around 2005 to usability studies and human-computer interaction. I don't
think anything very transformative happened in terms of this research,
other than it gave some strategies to improve search portals and etc. Later
on from that, librarians found themselves locked into "here's how you use a
database" lessons that were less relevant to students already familiar with
the tools of the internet, so there was a shift to more broad instruction
and "Library guide" development online. As I was a public rather than an
academic library, I cannot speak to the success of these approaches.
Certainly, a good amount of debate exists regarding the cost-benefit of
this sort of thing.

As a current PhD student in public policy, i've tried a number of
strategies, but mostly "ad hoc" I would say. The best one, imho is to find
a useful call number, hit the stacks and look for something newer than
2010. Eventually someone makes a claim that there is a "classic" work and
you hit those up and then see who cited them.

Another approach I've used for literature review is using a citation
network and conducting some community detection. This is particularly
important for interdisciplinary work due to common use of phrases with
different meanings/contexts ("policy network" and "agenda setting" for
example mean slightly different things in policy versus communications

I think Google scholar is excellent for syllabus development, given the
citation scores. If I am entering a field that I am not familiar with,
syllabuses often do help with getting a grounding on the topic.

And then there is just plain old social networking. Visiting other
scholar's offices and asking for advice.

I do have to say I am lucky for my library training. Many of my colleagues
with much higher IQs think me a genius sometimes because of my ability to
find sources that no one else seems able to find.

I would imagine that there would be some different strategies for the
humanities. I would also guess that, like the way I am more likely to
encounter humanities articles, humanities students are more likely to
encounter social and information sciences more frequently as well. This is
often frustrating, but occasionally it is very rewarding too.

Ryan. . .

On Fri, Nov 27, 2015 at 3:07 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 510.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Fri, 27 Nov 2015 07:58:46 +0000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: bibliographic wayfinding?
> A question better answered by many, I hope here, and with accompanying
> discussion: what do our bibliographic wayfinding practices look like
> now? (The word, 'wayfinding', is not yet in the OED, but the entry for
> it in Wikipedia is helpful, with some surprises, at least for me.)
> Let me explain the basis of the question. My studies for an MA degree
> were unmemorable except for one course, in bibliographic methods for
> students of English literature. Our professor took us to the library as
> a group and showed us how to use its resources. We must have had
> follow-up exercises, but what I remember very clearly is the
> step-by-step processes from book to book he showed us then, by
> *doing* it, then and there. That stuck and has served me well ever
> since.
> Later, but still in the dark ages some here will recall, during which I
> did my doctoral research, I put my old professor's lessons into
> practice. There were, of course, the standard reference books and one
> very helpful reference librarian with a PhD in history. But typically,
> on my own, I'd find a useful book or article, then follow the references
> in its footnotes and bibliography to other books and articles, and so
> on, until I had a shortlist of items that kept turning up or that
> otherwise looked worth investigating further. I'd supplement this with
> items I found nearby in the library stacks, in the same special issue of
> a journal and so on. My topic involved several disciplines (chiefly 17C
> English, Classics and Biblical Studies), so I had to stray off the usual
> paths for a doctoral student in English. The library I worked in
> (University of Toronto primarily, 7 million volumes then) was up to the
> task and kept me very busy, but I don't recall physical or mental
> exhaustion ever playing much of a role in limiting my bibliographic
> wayfinding.
> Now it does play a significant role. It's so easy to find relevant items
> from a far larger stock of materials, and so easy to be made aware of
> unsuspected intellectual terrain, that giving up the search when it is
> still yielding good stuff has become something I must live with. The
> choice is between that and never finishing anything. How I handle the
> items I do access -- is 'read' the right verb here? -- I treat somewhat
> differently. The fundamental process of note-taking, compilation and
> assimilation remains much the same. But the mechanisms are different and
> doubtless make a difference I am too busy to study.
> So let me ask a slightly more specific question: what would or does a
> (post)graduate-level digitally-aware course in bibliographic methods
> look like now? Who teaches it? Do research librarians play a role? Is
> digital humanities involved, and if not, why not?
> I imagine a year-long course, required of all doctoral students in the
> humanities and interpretative social sciences, covering the above and
> adding in (given how much diverse data there are to manipulate)
> elementary programming skills. What better context for their introduction?
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
> Group, University of Western Sydney

Ryan Deschamps
PhD Candidate Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy
ryan.deschamps at gmail.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/greebie  Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryandeschamps

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