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DiggingTheStacks3

A final excerpt from A Guide to Library Research Methods by Thomas Mann --- Chapter 11, "Talking to People":

So far we have examined six major avenues of access to information: controlled vocabulary searches, systematic browsing, key word searches, citation searches, searches through published bibliographies, and those done through computers. (Computer searches use elements of the other methods but add the possibility of post-coordinate Boolean combinations.) The seventh major avenue --- that of talking to people --- is the one most favored by journalists, but it is also valuable for anyone else.

It is particularly important for academic researchers to be aware of this method, as most academics have an overly strong print bias, that is, they often unconsciously assume that if information cannot be found in print, then it cannot be found at all. This mental set is frequently complicated by two other assumptions, that calling people on the phone is "bothering" them, and that spending a few dollars on long-distance calls is totally beyond the pale of acceptable behavior.

...

... In obtaining information, the "secret" that is so hard for so many people to believe is this: There is no secret. Just make the call anyway and be perfectly honest about your reasons. It's O.K. to ask for help. The odds are that you'll succeed if you are simply persistent in developing a chain of referrals.

Only a few things must be kept in mind to make your calls productive. First, if the nature of your inquiry is particularly complex, do a little homework first. ...

Second, explain the purpose of your research --- that is, what your're ultimately trying to do, and what you will use the information for (e.g., personal curiosity, publication, broadcast, etc.). ...

Third, respect the expert's intellectual property rights. Don't simply "milk" a person for information and then pass it off as your own --- be careful not to infringe on your source's own potential use of the information. ...

Fourth, when you talk to people about a subject you're not familiar with, it is very important to ask for more contacts. Few researchers will rely exclusively on one printed source; it is similarly unwise to rely on only one spoken viewpoint. ...

And fifth, after you have talked to someone who has been helpful --- especially if the person has gone out of his or her way for you --- it is very important to write a thank you note.

Thank you, Thomas! (See ^zhurnal DiggingTheStacks2 (30 June 2001) and DiggingTheStacks1 (21 June 2001))

Wednesday, July 11, 2001 at 20:23:57 (EDT) = Datetag20010711

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(correlates: DiggingTheStacks2, DiggingTheStacks1, UnintendedConsequences, ...)