Friday, January 25, 2008

Research: The Paper Trail, Part I

Research – Following the Paper Trail, Part I

We have covered some “basics” of Internet research, but remember there is a world of information beyond your computer in research facilities around the world. And if you travel to another country to do research, be prepared for language barriers, unless you are fluent in the native tongue. I had this happen in Italy and was totally shocked that I hadn’t taken this into consideration when I made my research plans. This was my first European research trips and the last one I made this mistake with. Researchers must be prepared for many different circumstances and all facilities are different.

Now, this type of research is back in my realm of working and it might be a bit more demanding but you might also find some ”little known” treasures that no one else in the writing field is aware of.

Resources for research include:

· Library catalogs/Libraries

· Books

· Periodicals

· Archival Collections

· Museums

· Rare Book Collections

· Internet databanks at research centers

Keep in mind, most serious research centers request the researcher to be at least 18 years of age and have a photo I.D. for them to hold while you are in their facility or to present to the security guard or person controlling the door. If you are under 18 and still need to do research, see if you can find an adult (over 18) to go with you but make sure you contact the facility first to seek permission. Some locations, if you check first and arrive with an adult, will allow you to do work there as long as you are supervised. Some locations will still refuse entry until you are 18 years of age.

Visiting a research facility is a unique experience for most writers. I have been at facilities where researchers have been turned away at the door because they were not prepared for doing their research, at some locations the guards are trained to interview you to make sure you are there for the right reasons. I have been in facilities where security guards have kindly escorted researchers to the door telling them to return when their research needs were more thought out. I have been at facilities where a security guard arrived at a study table with the curator and asked the researcher to leave because he was not using proper etiquette, during this incident the security guard also handed the researcher a city map with the local public library circled. Researching at a facility is for the serious researcher, not for someone who is “just” curious about a subject and doesn’t know what they are doing or how to act.

And remember, if you are going to a research facility, pack a bag – seriously -- you will need to bring things with you that are approved by the facility for research and will show the directors of the facility you are serious about your work and worthy to be there working beside other professionals.

Make sure you have a small briefcase, a soft-sided one works best because if you are doing research in an archival collect, museum library, or even some rare book collections you will most likely be asked to leave all personal belongings in a locker outside the doors you are about to enter. A soft-sided case will hold all your needs but can be bent to fit a small locker, too. And ladies, your purses are not welcome, along with backpacks or book bags of any sort. The lockers do have locks to protect your belongings while working. The average locker will cost you .25cents which is “generally” returned to you at the end of the day.

Bring along a notebook, plenty of pencils with erasers, pens are not allowed, tissues (no gum), a magnifying glass and possibly a pair of white cotton gloves, if you are going to be handling artifacts or very old documents. Another thing to bring along is a bagged lunch (leave in the locker). Most facilities are notorious for not being located close to any restaurants, but they do “generally” provide a lunch room where you can purchase boxed sandwiches that have been on display for only a few months. It is better and safer to bring your own lunch and not be surprised or made ill because of overlooking this fact of research facilities.

This is the end of Part I, read tomorrow for Part II.

Part of the joy is the search for knowledge!

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