The University of Melbourne encourages most undergraduates to use Discovery, the ‘Google-like’ search engine that reviews multiple databases. Except there’s a lot it doesn’t include. Going to any Library training session, they recommend a whole raft of other databases, which can only be found by laborious clicking through, and you need to know the database name to start with.
So, how do I start an online search? I logged into the university website, and searched Web of Science (yes, good for arts and humanities searches too). At this stage I’m just typing “Kenneth Slessor” into the search terms–he has an unusual name so I never get a false positive (his name is a made up anglicisation of a German-Jewish surname, so it’s not common).
I got 27 hits, mostly from Southerly, and Australian Literary Studies. I’m emailing them all to myself. I could input them into EndNote or RefWorks, but I hate reference management systems so much that I can’t bear to. (For the PhD, it was essential. For a single article? Not so much. I’ve copied and pasted them into a Word document, though I might transfer that to an Excel spreadsheet instead. Excel is much underrated for small databases (she says with her database hat on).
Next I head over to the MLA International Bibliography. I get 34 hits, a few of them overlapping with my first list, but new ones from Meanjin and Antiopodes.
It’s worth pointing out that to read an article takes about 30 minutes, so I’m already looking at months of reading if I planned to read them all. But I don’t. Just scanning the titles helps me to work out:
- which are the most important of Slessor’s works
‘Five Bells’, ‘Heine in Paris’, his war diaries, ‘Captain Dobbin’, ‘Intellectualised Pornography’.
- who are the most important scholars for Slessor
Geoffrey Dutton and Denis Haskill.
- what are the major themes and approaches to his works
The Bush (and landscape more generally), modernism, Australian literature, some feminism, some post-colonial studies.
I’ll be downloading these articles, and scanning them; I’ll be reading abstracts and triaging. I still have to go back and export the data I just eyeballed from Discovery… but all of that’s for another session.