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Too Big to Know: The Bibliography

Last night I sent my editor, Tim Bartlett, the next rev of Too Big to Know. It took me a few weeks of solid work – somewhat obsessive, perhaps – to respond to my editors’ comments because they were challenging at the level of my arguments (such as they are). Then, after going through it once, I spent another week reading through the entire manuscript to get a better sense of the flow. That quick read-through actually got me to make some fairly substantial changes. It also reminded me once again how easy it is to miss obvious errors. In fact, even after sending it in to my editor, I doscovered an “it’s” that should have been an “its” … on the first page. Yikes.

Now Tim has to read through the rev, come back with more changes for me to work on or pass it on to copy editing. As far as I know, the book is still scheduled for a Fall release.

As part of this rev, I worked on the bibliography. I’m planning on not including it in the book itself, although I’m open to Tim’s advice. In any case, I will put it up at the TooBigToKnow website (which currently consists of nothing but posts tagged here). If you want to see the current version of the bibliography, it’s available as a Google Docs spreadsheet here. I’m thinking that making it available as a spreadsheet online makes it more useful. Also, I plan on annotating it.

Putting it together made me wonder if the ease with which we can do research online is causing the average length of bibliographies to increase…

8 Responses to “Too Big to Know: The Bibliography”

  1. Great list !

    I already found some interesting items there (like my favourite author R. Carr writing about my favourite linguits S. Pinker)

    :-)

  2. I started grad school last fall (MSIS at UNC-Chapel Hill) after more than a ten year break from formal higher education. The single biggest change in how I work now compared to how I worked in undergrad (not related to the the shift from undergrad to grad) has been how Google Scholar impacts compiling bibliographies.

    The ease with which I can pull together a long list of highly relevant literature in a relatively short period of time has meant that I’m able to present for more comprehensive work, and usually have to make a conscious decision to just say “that’s enough” rather than effortlessly drilling down endlessly into citations.

  3. The question you raised at the end of your post caught my attention and brings to mind something I wanted to ask you about.

    I agree that bibliographies should increase and can attest to this with my own experiences in my research. However, yesterday I came across a study noting the narrowing of research due to the availability of online searches.

    Evans (2008) found that, as more articles were made available online, newer articles were referencing a smaller population of articles and journals. Evans suggested that searching resulted in the authors finding only the more common results compared to browsing which allowed the author to discover a wider range of articles and journals.

    While I couldn’t image conducting research without our new and powerful search tools, it seems that this convenience may have some consequences. What is your take on this?

    In your last book you, which I really enjoyed, you argued the value in the miscellaneous approach. In this case, searching follows this approach but it seems, based on Evans’ findings, that it can also create some challenges. Do you see a way around this? Is there a need for a different type of search algorithm to ensure we are not excluding certain segments of the literature?

    I would enjoy hearing your perspective.

    Reference:
    Evans, J.A. (2008). Electronic publication and the narrowing of science and scholarship. Science, 321(5887), 395-399.

  4. Brandon, it’s a probably a power law function again. There seems to be a certain inevitability to it. But I find it hard to read. Are the head-of-the-tail articles serving as a new canon to which one must genuflect before setting out for new territory? How distributed are the non-head articles being referenced? In any case, we certainly need to focus on tools that help us find worthy materials from down the tail.

    BTW, here’s a new and terrific post by Eric Hellman on the power law phenomenon in library circ data: http://go-to-hellman.blogspot.com/2011/03/help-me-study-physics-of-book-use.html

  5. Just wondering if the Bibliography you are constructing is enumerative, i.e., an extensive overview or listing of publications in a particular category whether you have read them or not, or more annotative, i.e., a listing of sources you have personally read and have incorporated into your thinking and writing? This might include books you have read even though there are no citations from these books included in your writing.

    When I read an important and well written book, I look to the Bibliography as a guide to further reading that has been filtered by and recommended by the author. So I look to a bibliography as restrictive rather than exhaustive.

    I also look to a Bibliography as a revelation. The author is telling me: These are the books that I have read that have helped to fashion and influence my thinking.

    Just wondering how the Bibliography functions for you in the writing of your book?

  6. Raymond, it’s less useful and interesting than you’d like. It lists all the sources I’ve explicitly cited, plus a very few that were influential but that I did not cite. In fact, it’s not actually every source I cited; some were small, passing references used as an example, and I just didn’t both putting them in the biblio; they are in the end notes, however.

    I, too, like it when an author lists influential books. But I find it psychologically difficult; I’m always afraid to choose one over another. So, I’ll put notes into the existing bibliography to help guide readers to works I particularly find helpful.

  7. Thanks David!

  8. > In fact, even after sending it in to my editor, I doscovered an “it’s” that should have been an “its” … on the first page.

    You can’t escape Muphry’s Law.


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