Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Research Tool: Internet

Periodically, it occurs to me how much I rely on the internet to do my research and writing work. Not only do I suffer from the "Google is friend"-Syndrome, I do most stuff online - because it is so convenient, especially with DSL and a flatrate.

I got addicted to the net as a research tool when I had the possibility to work at a desk with two computers, my laptop and a PC that was permanently hooked to the 'net, and with a fast connection at that. I started using the net more and more: For getting a quick reference check in Wikipedia, getting translation help in online dictionaries, looking for garments and persons in text and picture databases, checking out information about manuscripts, using Google and Google Scholar as well as other databases to find articles about each and every side topic I stumbled over, and of course reserving books for checkout in the library and making inter-library loans.

There came the day where without the internet connection, my workflow was seriously stunted. Of course I can still read an academic book without help from the net (at least if it is written easily enough written in a language I can read well enough), but I soon miss the easy additional info right at my fingertips - and wanting to check up something, get a translation, a definition, or see whether I've already read the book mentioned in a footnote and maybe reserve it for checkout, and not being able to just do these things, sort of jars my pace.

This is definitely one downside of the internet as research tool. Another one consists of these deep, well-concealed rifts in spacetime you can stumble upon when surfing the internet. Surely you have hit one at least once - suddenly, at least an hour has passed, without any proper work done. There are times when I'm especially vulnerable to time sucks, and I have even resorted to leechblock to keep this at bay.

A third bit that I don't love so much is the fact that the computer has to be on to access the Internet. Even with a laptop that can technically be carried over into the next room, you are chained to a machine that won't work anywhere, that needs proper support, can't take too much rough handling, gets warm and chirps (at least mine does). It's just not as comfy as a good old book, not as easy to take along, as easy to access.

Still, my thesis would not have been possible without multiple online dictionaries, .pdf-theses offered on the net, picture databases and manuscript databases, and very importantly e-mail and museum webpages. I must have spent gazillions of hours looking for information, reading excerpts, looking for books and articles about clothing I had not found before.

And surely I'm not the only one. What about you? How much and how often do you use the Internet as a research tool? Are you relying on the old 'Net too much sometimes? And what do you do to avoid the pits of mis-information and the maelstroms of time-suck?

1 comment:

Isis said...

i use internet all the time :) i use it as a starting point in research, to find information and literature on a certain subject (google, library catalogues, image databases, etc), and to find background info on some of the details i come accross while reading/writing.

it indeed is easy to get carried away, but i haven't yet found a solution for that that works for me.