Weekly Assignment #13 (last one)

By midnight on Wednesday, December 13, please locate an archival collection related to your topic. Write an annotation summarizing the collection and evaluating its potential usefulness for your paper. Use any or all the following resources:

An online finding aid, if there is one, will give you a great deal of information about the collection that you can use for your annotation’s summary. You can sometimes find these by following links from the databases, but you can also Google the name of the collection (e.g., “Ernest Hemingway papers”) plus the keywords “finding aid” or “inventory.” You might also try going to the library / repository’s own website and searching their catalog or website.

Also, just for fun, you might want to check out the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive. If you’re looking for an old website or a previous version of a current one, this is about your only option.

And yes: you can include archival sources (or finding aids to them) in your annotated bibliography!


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Meet at NCSU Special Collections 12/5 and 12/7

I’ve arranged for us to meet and be spoken to in our own Special Collections next week. Todd Kosmerick, University Archivist, has kindly agreed to tell us about how to find materials in Special Collections around the nation and here in our own library.

Special Collections is VERY HARD to find right now because of the construction; believe it or not, you have to go up to the SECOND floor of the East Wing of D. H. Hill and THEN take the stairs or elevator down to the GROUND floor, because you can’t get to the correct part of the ground floor from the first floor right now. Here are directions.

Leave plenty of time to get to Special Collections promptly at 4:30, because we’ve only got half an hour there. At 5pm we’ll go back up to the second floor to the ITTC lab (where we had the class on reference books) to finish out the class session and do course evaluations.


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Bibliography resources

20th-Century American Bestsellers — database with detailed descriptive bibliographies of many 20th-century American bestsellers (created by students).

Screencast by Jon Udell of changes in a Wikipedia entry — graphically makes the point that an “edition” in the online world may be a concept whose time has went.

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Special Collections UNC trip canceled

It definitely looks as though we’ll need to cancel the trip up to UNC for Tuesday, at least, and probably Thursday as well. Ah, well. I’ll see about taking us over to Special Collections and/or getting a guest speaker from Special Collections right here on our own campus instead — if not, I’ll give you my own spiel on Special Collections and archival research.

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Weekly Assignment #12

Since I never did really post the assignment last week, we’ll fold it over into this week’s. Please find two books (monographs or edited books) related to your topic and post them, with annotations, as comments to this post. Thanks.


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Annotated Bibliography assignment

Here are some answers to some questions about the annotated bibliography assignment. Remember that what I’m looking for is an annotated bibliography of the 20 best sources for you related to your research topic.

  • Can we include our weekly assignments in the bibliography?
  • Do we have to revise them?
    No, not unless they need it.
  • Does the annotated bibliography need to be mechanically clean and relatively formal?
    Yes, though you can certainly use the first person.
  • Do we have to include all the weekly assignments?
    No, and a couple of them (e.g., Library of Congress Subject Headings) aren’t really appropriate for an annotated bibliography.
  • Can I include just journal articles and books in the bibliography?
    Yes, if those are among the 20 best sources of information for you.
  • Can I include websites, blogs, listservs, book reviews, and whole journals in the annotated bibliography?
    Yes, if those are among the 20 best sources of information for you.
  • How long should the annotations be?
    The annotation (which should summarize and evaluate the source) should be about 1 or 2 ORIGINAL paragraphs.
  • What citation style should the bibliography use?
    Any accepted scholarly citation style (MLA, Chicago, APA, or other). If you’re using something besides MLA, Chicago, or APA, please indicate which style you’re using.
  • When and how is it due?
    Please e-mail it to me at amanda_french@ncsu.edu on Tuesday, December 12 as an attached MS Word, Open Office, or WordPerfect document.

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UNC Manuscripts trip 12/5 and 12/7

I’ve arranged a “field trip” for us up to UNC’s Manuscripts Department for Tuesday December 5 and Thursday December 7. (No permissions slips necessary in grad school!) The sessions are due to start promptly at 5pm, so you will have a little lag time to get there. Sessions will end about 5:45pm.

I won’t be requiring attendance for this class, but I do strongly urge you to brave the rush hour traffic to attend. There’ll be a little oohing and ahhing and showing and telling, and that’s always fun, but we’ll also talk about the whys and hows of doing archival research.

Think about this: The recent (last 30 years) trend in literary scholarship has been towards the theoretical, yet one of the things the internet does best is to create wider access to, and, consequently, greater interest in, primary sources. I’d contend that the discovery, editing, and interpretation of archival material is easier than it has ever been and will soon (say, in the next 20 years) surpass “doing theory” as the most important work in literary study. At the very least, some print editions of letters and manuscripts will need to be rebuilt from scratch as electronic editions.

Please comment on this post and let me know whether you’ll come to one of these classes, and if so, to which one. Please also use the comments section to this post to arrange carpools; I understand there’s also a bus that goes up there, and that might be convenient, too. If you have information about that, please post it here in the comments.

The UNC MSS department is located on the 4th floor of Wilson library; detailed driving directions from Raleigh are here. As these directions state, the best place to park is in the Visitors’ Parking lot on the right side of Raleigh Rd./54 soon after the intersection of Raleigh Rd. and Greenwood Rd.

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Weekly Assignment #11

I’ve finally realized that if I post the assignment to the blog before class, I can use it to teach class! (If the projector is working.) Boy, these blogs are useful things. (EXCEPT when they eat your work.)

This week’s special bibliographic category is “book reviews.” One point to make about book reviews is that there are two main reasons to use them: first, to check the reputation of a book you’ve heard of; second, to discover brand-new books that you’ve never heard of.

Neither the MLA Bibliography nor Google Scholar will allow you to limit specifically to book reviews. A “Cited Reference” search on a book title in Web of Science will sometimes bring you book reviews of that work, but it’d dicey. The most useful databases for book reviews are Project Muse and JSTOR, which both allow you to limit to reviews. Go to the Advanced Search and look around for this limiter, toggle it, then plug in the book title, and voilà: book reviews of that book.

Cindy Levine has put together a guide to book reviews that is particularly helpful at pointing you to print sources that help you find older book reviews. This can be helpful for both scholarly books (secondary sources) and works of literature (primary sources). Book reviews can also have a scholarly purpose for us, of course, helping us assess a work’s contemporary reception.

Remember, too, that many periodicals exist for the sole purpose of reviewing books as they appear: The New York Times Book Review has a free weekly e-mail, and it looks like the horribly expensive Times Literary Supplement (which I covet) has instituted an RSS feed. I definitely plan to check that out. Specialized reviews such as the Women’s Review of Books can also be terrific. Keeping up with contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry is (I personally believe) necessary for an academic even if you’re studying Old English.

Scholarly journals are the best source for highly specialized book reviews, of course. Also, Amazon and Powell’s have become rich sources of less formal reviews; you might be surprised how many academics have enthusiastically adopted these online reviewing mechanisms. See, for example, the Amazon reviews of Terry Eagleton’s After Theory, which came out in 2004.

(And look! Amazon has citation links, too! I either forgot about that or didn’t know about it. Evidently that feature debuted in late 2004.)

For this week’s assignment, please try to find:

  • A book review of a very recent scholarly book (2005-2006), a book you’ve never heard of before, that might be useful for you. Browse through recent issues of scholarly journals and/or mainstream reviews such as the TLS for these. You need not annotate this book review; just include the full citation for the book review and the title of the book being reviewed.
  • As many book reviews as you can find of a book you’ve already found for your topic. Please list these and write a single paragraph summarizing what they say — the general critical reception of the book.

If you can’t manage to find a recent book review that points you toward a useful book, don’t worry about it: just do the second part of the assignment. Also, as I mentioned, by “book” I mean any book — scholarly editions and anthologies and reference works as well as single-author mongraphs.

UPDATE: Domenica Vilhotti found a terrific open web resource called Scirus ETD Search that searches the Electronic Theses and Dissertations repositories of many institutions, including ours. Great for full text theses and dissertations; Dissertation Abstracts doesn’t give you full text.


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Weekly Assignment #10

This week, please find two citations for dissertations or theses related to your topic and write two paragraphs evaluating their usefulness or potential usefulness to you. (You may not be able to get a copy very quickly, although you can use Tripsaver, aka interlibrary loan, to order one if you’d like to read it.) It’s true that you can find theses and dissertations using Google Scholar, but there’s no good way to limit your search to just these genres. A much better option for this assignment is to use the Dissertation Abstracts database, which is the definitive resource for finding dissertations.

Try to find the best theses for your research, not the most easily accessible ones. But do also take a look at dissertations and theses written at NCSU. You can search for them in the library catalog by limiting to “theses and dissertations,” then quickly lay your hands on a readable copy by visiting Special Collections (in the case of pre-1997 works) or by clicking on a full-text PDF (for most works after 1997) stored in NCSU’s Electronic Theses and Dissertations database. There aren’t that many items in the ETD database, but on the plus side, you can get the material fast.

Note that your own master’s thesis, like Melanie Sue Hair’s “The Literary Merit of Young Adult Novels: Are They as Good as the Classics?”, will show up there someday soon, and, because it’s in a freely available online database, the whole thing will also be freely available to the world via Google and Google Scholar unless you specifically request that it be withheld for a time (this is called an “embargo”). Neither Dissertation Abstracts nor Amazon indexes Melanie’s thesis, but take a look at David Alejandro Cardenas’s 2005 dissertation Measurement of Involvement Factors in Leisure Studies Doctoral Programs, which is indexed by DA, by our catalog, by the ETD database, and by Google Scholar, with its full text freely available — or, of course, you can get it through Amazon for $69.99.

Other relevant links:

  • NCSU Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation Guide — I looked here for exact information on who exactly owns the copyright of your thesis, but to no avail. What I think is that you retain most of the copyright to your work (“copyright” is really a bundle of rights), but that you sign a waiver at some point that allows both NCSU and UMI the right to distribute copies of it but does not allow them to block publication of your work elsewhere. Note that the section on “Copyrighting and Microfilming” is mostly concerned with copyrighted material in your work; this is because UMI and NCSU are effectively publishing your work, and they don’t want to be sued by other copyright holders. Note too a work need not be registered with the Copyright Office in order to be copyrighted, a distinction that is not at ll clear in this guide.
  • ProQuest / UMI’s Dissertation Publishing webpage — You can read here about ProQuest’s business deals with Google and Amazon and about the Open Access publishing option, which (I learned) costs $95.

What exactly counts as a publication in this day and age, anyway?


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Weekly Assignment #9

For this week’s assignment, please do your best to identify two major journals in your field and/or the field relevant to your question. You might want to use the MLA Directory of Periodicals for this, or you might want to ask a scholar to recommend two prominent journals, or you might want to choose two journals that have been cropping up repeatedly in your research.

Describe and evaluate both these journals, making sure to include at least

  • The scholarly “mission” of the journal — its approach, its partisan affiliation, its critical orientation;
  • Whether it is peer-reviewed;
  • How often it comes out;
  • When it was founded; and
  • Who publishes the journal.

You should find this information near the beginning of any print or electronic issue. Please DO NOT copy and paste unattributed boilerplate descriptions of the journal. You may, of course, quote and cite portions of this text.

I also recommend that you visit the publisher’s website and see whether you can subscribe to an RSS feed for this journal. Critical Inquiry, for example, offers a feed of its latest issue, while other journals will often feed you their tables of contents.
If you ever plan to publish any of your research, it would also be a great idea to subscribe now to a journal that really sparks your interest, so that you can get a comprehensive sense of what sorts of things they publish.

Also, our library has set up an Alerts service that allows you to get journal tables of contents in your email, but it doesn’t look like this service includes many humanities journals yet.


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