7. May 2017

posted May 18, 2017, 11:05 AM by Frank Steele   [ updated May 18, 2017, 11:06 AM ]

May 18, 2017

It’s been a busy time, especially since I returned from the ACES 2017 conference at the end of March. Fact-checking has been less frequent and editing and proofreading have ramped up considerably, so I’ve been thinking about merging all these updates into the body of the main PDF. But before I do—if I do—I’ll post a few things I’ve noticed during the last few months.

Verifying quotes
The SearchReSearch blog had a good post on checking quotes back in March, Face it: Tracking down quotes was never easy... Daniel Russell has the usual good and helpful examples, with the search lessons at the end:

1.  When searching for a long quote, search for the shortest "nugget" that contains the essence of a quotation.  Picking this nugget out of a long quote is often a matter of looking for the "least likely part to have been changed" (you know, the pithy, interesting part of the quote), and then keeping that searchable phrase as short as possible. 

2. When looking for a quote, don't accept someone's attribution (unless they're really well-known for getting it right).  Generally speaking, you want to see the original text (or a clearly correct transcription of the spoken word). There are relatively few places that I'll believe got the author attribution correct (the Quote Investigator, Snopes, FactCheck... places that have a strong reputation in getting the facts right).  

3.  Bear in mind that quotes often shift in length, spelling, and details. In many cases, the quotation tends to get shorter, pithier, and ascribed to even more famous people.

I should have paid more attention. I got the attribution wrong on a quote just a few days ago. The quote in question was “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” I just knew it was from C. S. Lewis. In fact, I think I even looked it up, saw a few sites where it was credited to him, and went on my merry way.

Well, I was mistaken. The quote was from Rick Warren, taken from his book The Purpose Driven Life. There’s a similar (but still fairly different) quote in Lewis’s Mere Christianity, but it’s not the one in question, as I discovered. I spent a fair bit of time trying to prove to myself that I hadn’t gotten it wrong, but I had. So score one for humility. Remember to double-check things even if you figure you don’t need to, and do so thoroughly.


Sleuthing with Google Streetview and Google Earth
An April post from SearchReSearch has a great “Where in the World Am I?” challenge based on a few photos, with tips on how to use Google Streetview, Google Earth, EXIF metadata and more. I felt like Sherlock Holmes at the end, putting the clues together to discover the where and even the why. Well, I actually felt more like Watson, watching Holmes figure it all out, but it was a good learning experience.


Using wildcards in Google and Google Scholar
ResearchBuzz had an April post on using wildcards in Google searches, “A Quick Look at Google's Full-Word Wildcard.” Google uses the asterisk as a wildcard, which means that if you put it in a search phrase in place of a word, you’ll get results with any word used in its place. For example, the search “three * mice” will bring up “three blind mice,” “three fat mice,” “three bald mice,” and so on.

You can also use the wildcard when you’re trying to find material on two terms that are related, but you’re not exactly sure how. The wildcard acts as the connector:

The point is that full-word wildcards are not just for Google searching a known phrase, though it can be useful for that. Instead it's invaluable as a proximity search tool when you're trying to explore two concepts that can't easily be linked as or with a common phrase. And as you can see, that's especially useful in Google Scholar.


How to set up a Google News alert on a famous person
Another helpful post from ResearchBuzz demonstrated how to set up a Google news alert on a famous person, such as Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, for example, reducing the number of hits from something like 3.5 million to just a few thousand, or even four or five. It’s a good tutorial, especially if you haven’t used Google Alerts much.


That’s it for now. Have a wonderful May!