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Using digitised text collections in research and learning


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A discussion of how digitsed text collections are being used, their impact on research, and what researchers and resource providers need to do to make sure they are used effectively.

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Using digitised text collections in research and learning

  1. 1. Using digitised text collections in research and learning Emma Huber, UKOLN 24 th September 2009
  2. 2. What is a digitised text collection? <ul><li>Scanned or photographed images of hard-copy originals </li></ul><ul><li>Presented in an online interface </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Catalogue information or metadata </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Images </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Searchable electronic “full” text </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Little specific research </li></ul>
  3. 3. Main uses <ul><li>Retrieving known material </li></ul><ul><li>Discovering new material </li></ul><ul><li>Analysing material </li></ul><ul><li>“ if it doesn't work, then I won't do it, so this may account for my non-use of the advanced search features that I didn't know existed” </li></ul>
  4. 4. Impact of resources on research <ul><li>More texts can be accessed more quickly from more places than ever before </li></ul><ul><li>Different texts are being consulted </li></ul><ul><li>Different research methodologies are being used </li></ul><ul><li>Expectations of students and researchers have changed </li></ul>
  5. 5. More texts can be accessed more quickly from more places “ You could add another twelve months on to a PhD if you did not have EEBO to undertake research like that into print culture, because you would [..] see research students flying around the country [..] trying to find these things in repositories in country houses belonging to aristocratic families, whereas they are now all online”   “I mean EEBO speeds it up a bit, and therefore enables me to look at more material and […] to look at things which are just possibilities rather more easily, and as I say it enables me to recheck things I've already looked at more easily, which I might not bother to do if the book were only available in hard copy”
  6. 6. Different texts are being consulted <ul><li>“ I think in many ways it's going to have a detrimental effect on manuscript studies, just because it's so much easier to work with whatever is online, and it means you don't have to travel to see things, and obviously there's not very much money there for our kind of area of research anyway” </li></ul><ul><li>“ if your thesis ended up with every single print, every single primary source or most of them, being kind of EEBO this tract, EEBO this tract, you would probably worry that someone would say, oh she's lazy, she just did that all at home without actually going anywhere” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think, when Murray, in the late 19th century sent out his appeal for readers, the readers tended to prefer to choose literary texts, because they were also enjoyable to read, and not read the sort of more factual and less interesting, and especially the long tracts on theology were hardly ever read I think” </li></ul>
  7. 7. Different research methodologies are being used <ul><li>“ I think it has taken certain ways of approaching texts out of the realm of the very, very hardworking solitary scholar, of which there are very few” </li></ul><ul><li>“ when I got the feedback [..] they said that this was a very original piece of work, and it used a lot of very new, you know, not only was the manuscript a sort of new discovery in a way, but also by using EEBO it was [..] showing how computing in the humanities is sort of taking study in new directions” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think more quickly now you can look at a text if it was published in a specific month and year on a specific topic, and you would be able to find like twenty texts that were published around it or in response to it, and be able to look at all of them, without having them in different libraries dispersed throughout the world, [..] but then that that maybe then becomes the point that you become interested in, as a scholar” </li></ul>
  8. 8. Expectations of students and researchers have changed <ul><li>“ […] when you asked me that question I was thinking well no I don't [cite EEBO], I wonder why I don't and I think why I don't is because it's generally accepted that the kind of thing I research into, [EEBO]’s what you use, and if you actually are going physically to look at copies in libraries, then that's what you cite” </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>“ I guess I felt it necessary to look up poems, plays, pamphlets, letters, anything [..] which you're able to get your hands on [..] or work out exist because of EEBO, I think you feel sort of almost a duty to incorporate it? ‘Cos otherwise other people might think you're being sloppy [..] and then the net keeps just widening and widening” </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>“ it's almost like you're cheating if you look it up on EEBO and cite EEBO it's kind of like you haven't done the work, that you should go and look at the real thing” </li></ul>
  9. 9. Dangers of new resources <ul><li>Pitfalls of keyword searching </li></ul><ul><li>“ if you can find the nub of it without having to read the whole thing, then, you know, who's going to bother to read the whole thing” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Any attempt to rely on keyword searching to replace prolonged reading as a tool of knowledge acquisition – a function of memory – will fail and in fact impede human thought and learning” </li></ul><ul><li>Garrett, Jeffrey. &quot;KWIC and Dirty? Human Cognition and the Claims of Full-Text Searching.&quot; Journal of Electronic Publishing 9.1 (2006). Online. Available: 20 May 2006. </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of understanding of nature of resource </li></ul>
  10. 10. Conclusion <ul><li>Responsibility on part of resource creators </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User scenarios </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Responsibility on part of researchers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Establish scholarly best practice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide training </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ it means that some of us can get away with the impression of being scholarly, when we're not so much” </li></ul>
  11. 11. Thank you! Emma Huber [email_address]