Sunday, May 3, 2009

the gated communities of the internet & google scholar

Today I am giving a shout out to my cousin Brenda for telling me about google scholar. Last night I said that I might be asking for her knowledge in library science to help with coming up with search terms that work. I gave the example of wanting to know what research and history there is on diagnosing health problems by smelling a patient's breath (human or animal). She mentioned "google scholar" and also cautioned that I might need a library to assist me or be a college student in order to access the results.

I don't have my L-number from Lane Community College with me here in Cleveland, so I couldn't see if they had forgotten to delete me from the system when the last class I took ended. I figured I'd just try google scholar and see what happened. And ... it worked. To an extent. Yes, almost everywhere I went there was the internet version of gates, concertina wire, and night watchmen, but on each page of links there was one or two houses that were left unlocked; the ones - of course - without much in the way of possessions. Still, it was something. I was also able to pick bits of info up from abstracts, and other sites would allow peeps at the first page. While I wanted more, I had to admit that I could get pretty close to enough information for fiction work. More would most likely have been an edifying and enjoyable waste of time. For now, though, I know that it possible for a person with knowledge and a good nose to discover ailments far beyond periodonal disease, things like lung, breast, and bladder cancer; renal problems (especially problems associated with diabetes); some forms of poisoning (salicylate, for one); and both kinds of skin cancer (from smelling the skin, not the breath). Not surprisingly, some papers hint at lots of cool history of breath-smelling through the ages. Ah well. Can't go there just yet, or maybe ever. Among the groundlings, the internet is a still an ever-growing free-for-all of great information that may save your life or the life of some creature near you (cayenne pepper powder, lots of it, will stop even arterial bleeding - I have that from several sources) or teach you how to do so very many things without having to pay for lessons somewhere (Ronan and I enjoyed the video on how to pick locks), but the upper levels have always been battened down and we groundlings hear tales that more gated communities may come horning in to our turf. Some times we might need to find ways to get around the gates, but other times it's okay to just be a gleaner. Gleaning can get you a lot stuff, and depending on what you're making, the input materials don't always have to be top notch.

So for other writers out there looking to bolster an idea or a hunch or seeking small doses of verisimilitude to add to a story, google scholar is one more tool we can add to our collection. Thanks again, Brenda.

1 comment:

  1. You're very welcome, Lokiko. I'm glad Google Scholar worked for you.

    I do want to mention that the keys to many of those gated communities are available through your local public library-- not just the academic library. A lot of the time the library will provide web access to these databases as long as you have a library card. Looking online I found the Cottage Grove Public Library provides links to a lot of databases here.

    I don't know if you have a card (according to the website, it would cost you $40 for the year). I know you grew up in Ohio where you can get a public library card for free anywhere in the state, but that's really unusual. (At least one thing Ohio has right, imho, is state support for public libraries.) And I only mention that because I'm an Ohio library snob....

    Anyway, paying once for a master key as opposed to over and over again for each gate is one way to gain access to all of that information.

    And it was great to visit with you and Ronan-- I hope to see you again soon. In the meantime, I'll follow the blog!