Sunday, January 30, 2011

More on Research

I was recently asked where I find the material for my research into ancient Egyptian practises. My first thought was, the library, of course. I have probably spent more time in libraries in my life, than engaged in almost any other activity, except work. But, that was just too general an answer.

The research I do sometimes requires me to look for the outdated, the obscure, the arcane. Which is why my library is a most valuable resource. I can request books on Interlibrary Loan at 2 AM, online, while the rest of the world sleeps. But, each book I read leads to more.

Most people open a book to the Table of Contents, check out if it is what they are looking for, and decide to take it with them, or put it back on the shelf. I do just the opposite - I open to the Bibliography or Selected Reading. That is where the real action is.

From one book, I can find resource material for countless articles and books, and enough research material to last a lifetime. The back of a book may list magazine articles from the early 1900's, or books which are long out of print. But, that is where my library comes in.

Almost anything can be found online and requested through the library. Believe me, I requested a three volume set of translations of medical papyri which had not been check out since 1965. The dust alone on the volumes was enough to give me black lung. I carefully read each volume and learned more about medical practises than I ever could have in just a general history book. Now, when I write about a particular medical procedure, or an herbal treatment, I know my description will be historically accurate.

Online research has its advantages, but never underestimate the resources available at the library. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to meet people, maybe pick up a latte, and get some fresh air and sunshine, before getting back to that old computer screen.

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