Author Archives: Brett Phillipson

Research Proposal Open Thread

I know we don’t technically need to keep blogging these next couple of weeks, but given that our big final assignment is coming up I thought we might all need a space to discuss, ask questions, and maybe vent our frustrations every once in a while.

Personally, I haven’t reached the writing (or even outlining) stage yet, but I’ve taken a bit of time to read up on research methods and to scope out sources for my lit review, as well as some content to analyze. Since my research is going to be primarily historical I’ve been reading up on historical research methods, mainly in Historical Research: A Guide by W. H. McDowell (a pretty good book, though I’m unsure of its audience at times – parts of it seem to be geared towards undergrads, but others seem like they would be completely inaccessible to anyone without at least some graduate-level education) and David Landes and Charles Tilly’s History as Social Science, which I haven’t had a chance to really get into yet, but which looks interesting so far. I’m also hoping to read more about the type of qualitative content analysis that we did last week, since that seems like it will be very relevant to the research I’m hoping to do. The empirical methods are less relevant to me, though I’m not ruling them out just yet.

How’s everyone else’s work going so far? Almost finished? Almost started? Somewhere in between?

Group 5 Blog Word Cloud

The brief discussion of word clouds in class today made me want to see what one would look like for our blog, so I made one on Wordle.

(Wordle wouldn’t let me save this as an image file, so I did a screen capture then cropped it in Photoshop. It turned out a bit more blurry than I would have liked, but still, mad skills!)

What do you think? Does anything on there surprise you? Are there any other texts/websites out there that could stand to be Wordled?

SSHRC Proposals

Hopefully by now we’ve all had the chance to do some work on our SSHRC proposals for next week… or at least to spend some time thinking about what we’re going to write. How is it going for everyone? What are you research questions/ideas? Has anyone here ever written a SSHRC proposal before, and if so, do you have any advice? I personally haven’t, though I wrote a proposal for my OGS application last year, which was somewhat similar, albeit less detailed. I didn’t get the scholarship, though, so I’m probably not the best person to ask for tips.

I know that our strength so far, as a group, has been more in the individual posts than comments or discussions, so I thought I’d set up this space to talk about our progress and maybe get some feedback from each other before the deadline. I’ll definitely be replying with updates on my progress (when I make some), and I hope the rest of you aren’t too busy to do the same.

“in an age of info-glut”

I meant to post this last week, so apologies if it is not totally relevant to this week’s readings.

I find Luker’s characterization of the 21st century as an age of “info-glut” or “information overload” somewhat problematic. While information overload is certainly a fact of life in this day and age, I really don’t think it’s as new as she presumes – and her characterization of the past (in her case, only 30-40 years ago) as characterized by a paucity of information was even more confusing to me. Certainly, we do life in an age where information is everywhere, and the volume of information readily available to us through the internet is certainly unprecedented – but in spite of that, the feeling of information overload is very, very old. Older than the internet, older than daily newspapers and mass-market paperbacks, older even than the printing press (I am not joking).

I read (and actually reviewed, though I have yet to submit my review to any journals because I am super lazy) a book last year titled Too Much to Know, by historian Ann M. Blair. In it she deals with the perception of information overload, and the methods that people developed to deal with it, in the pre-modern world. Her main focus is on Renaissance Europe but she also deals a little bit with the medieval and ancient worlds as well. Many of the methods she discusses for dealing with information overload in these periods – reference books, classification schemes, etc. – are in fact the direct antecedents of the methods that information professionals use today. If you’re interested but don’t feel like reading 300-some pages about seventeenth-century reference books, she also published a short article in the Intellectual History Review titled “Reading Strategies for Coping with Information Overload ca. 1550-1700.”

I am still, unfortunately, a long way away from developing a research question of my own, but I think that I would like to work on something related to what Blair has done, except possibly with a focus on the eighteenth century, and with a focus on laypeople as well as (or possibly instead of?) scholars.

An Introduction

Now that nearly all of us have signed up for the blog, I thought it might be a good idea for us all to say a bit about ourselves, our research interests and/or professional experience, and what we’re hoping to get out of the course. I know that we went over this a bit in class, but hopefully we can all go into a bit more detail here.

I’ll start: I tend to describe myself as a historian, though I know that a lot of people in the History Department don’t like to use the term to refer to someone who doesn’t yet have a Ph.D. I did my B.A. and M.A. in History here at the U of T. I am particularly interested in the history of the book and of mass communication and popular culture in pre-Revolutionary France. I hope to have a chance to continue my historical research during my LIS degree and, eventually, as an academic librarian. I signed up for this class mainly because it’s a program requirement, but I’m intrigued by the course’s social science focus and I’m hoping that will allow me to explore the research methods of other disciplines. I work at Reference Services at Robarts (at least one of my coworkers is also in this class, though sadly she’s not in our group) and I know that to be an effective reference librarian I need to be able to assist students from a wide variety of disciplines, not just my own rather narrow field.

That’s it for me. Anyone else care to introduce yourselves?