Thursday, August 11, 2011


Sometimes academic databases are extremely picky about your search terms. For example, in the MLA International Bibiliography, you can search for "Doyle, Arthur Conan" and get zero results, even though MLA is all about literature, and Arthur Conan Doyle is an incredibly well-known writer. You know he's in there, you just can't get at him.

Fortunately, MLA provides a "thesaurus" that allows you to look up the correct way to enter your search term. Arthur Conan Doyle, apparently, should be listed as "Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur." GOOD GRIEF.

It seems a lot of people are frustrated by this system, and here is how you can tell: MLA gives you access to a list of all the search terms that other people have used. The idea is that you can use this to double-check that you're spelling things right, or see if someone else has figured out a better search term for your topic. But the side effect is that it also captures the deranged ravings of frustrated researchers for all posterity. If you just type in "A," you are provided with this nice selection of anguished cries from English majors:

Finding things like this is one of the hidden joys of working with databases. (One of about about two.)


themctavishams said...

lol if I was a student there, I would do that, too :P If not only in frustration, but also just to throw the database completely off ^_^

Simon said...

It's really tempting just to search random things in order to immortalize them in the database.