Doing some source-searching

To conduct the preliminary research for my topic, I decided to use the WorldCat, WorldCat Dissertations and Theses from WorldCat, and America: History and Life databases. Even when entering the same keywords, each database provided me with different sources (which, I suppose, is part of the benefit of using a variety of databases). WorldCat provided me with a lot of sources that would probably offer contextual information for the type of project I am considering. WorldCat Dissertations helped me find some works produced by other Masters or Ph.D. students that have focused on natural disasters. America: History and Life search results were similar to those offered by WorldCat, though I have to say I find the WorldCat database to be easier to search through.

Because I still have not decided on one particular disaster but am leaning toward flood disasters or floods as a result of dam failure, I used keyword combinations such as “dam” + “disaster” or “flood” + “disaster”. In every database, I found that these keywords provided greater results than when I used specific events as keywords, i.e. “mill river dam” + “disaster”.

The search process did not necessarily change the ways I have been thinking about my research project, but it did give me a better idea of what information is currently circulating. While part of me eagerly anticipates the prospect of tapping into a specific disaster that has not been previously covered, I am also increasingly aware of how difficult it may be to find secondary sources on such a topic. However, I was surprised at how much contextual information was readily available on disasters, though I will not be sure which of this information will be useful until I determine the exact perspective that I will use in my project. I believe the next step will be to take a closer look at the dissertations I added to my Zotero, as these will reveal how scholars have been approaching similar topics or disasters in their respective works, and perhaps reveal a perspective that I can utilize in my own.

5 thoughts on “Doing some source-searching”

  1. Sorry — hit post comment by mistake! Searching dissertations for a topic that researchers find “hot” right now is a really good idea. I’m guess that the bibliographies in these dissertations will give you a better idea of where scholars go for secondary sources on the topic. You may find yourself reading/thinking less about dam and floods at this stage than about how a “disaster” is defined — what makes an event a “disaster” rather then just a flood?

  2. I agree with Dr. Jones, bibliographies have been a great place to find secondary sources. I’m all about not trying to reinvent the wheel but look at what others do for ideas, structure, etc.

  3. I’m running into the same awareness of a lack of secondary sources, so we’re in the same boat! It seems like we have similar issues of finding “stuff” written around what we want…but not actual useful sourcework.

    And I’ll need to try the Theses & Dissertations Worldcat options!

  4. Dr. Jones,

    I definitely agree that considering how a disaster is defined may be the best approach at this stage. Luckily, while working on historiographic essays last semester, I compiled quite a list of the scholarship on that very topic, so hopefully that, along with the bibliographies from dissertations, will start me off in the right direction!

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