Discussions on the art and craft of research

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Library Digitization Project Provides Access to a Rich Collection of Connecticut’s Environmental History


A period of Connecticut’s environmental history is preserved in a little-known state bulletin that Connecticut College Libraries are thrilled to announce has now been digitized in a user-friendly and publicly accessible format on Internet Archive. The completion of the Citizens’ Bulletin digitization project is a welcome addition to the Libraries’ already solid holdings in environmental studies

Like many periodical publications, Citizens’ Bulletin went through a number of name changes over the course of its 18 years in print — DEP Citizens’ Bulletin (10/1973 – 12/1975), Citizens’ Bulletin (1/1976 – 6/1988), and finally Connecticut Environment: The Citizens’ Bulletin of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (7/1988 – 6/1991). We have chosen to refer to the publication in general as Citizens’ Bulletin, since that name is present in each of the three variant tiles.  

Citizens’ Bulletin was a monthly publication (11 issues per year) of the newly formed Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (established in 1971) that began significantly in the heyday of environmentalism in 1973, three years after the first Earth Day. The Bulletin endured several brief print stoppages along the way, and continued publication until its end due to state budget cuts in 1991. The inaugural issue in October 1973 laid out the publication’s mission: “to give you the information you need to participate in decisions affecting the quality of our environment.”

Bulletin History

That Citizens’ Bulletin began publication in 1973 is significant, because that was the year of a major international oil crisis that fueled an explosion of creative environmental thinking in North America. That environmental thinking is well documented in library catalogs nationwide, and it remains relevant to this day. To see examples of these ideas, direct your web browser to an online library catalog of your choice, type in a search for the words solar or energy, for example, and limit to documents published between the years of say 1973 and 1980 (e.g. Shain Library or Connecticut State Library).

Following Rachel Carson’s 1962 publication of Silent Spring, and fresh on the heels of the 1968 circulation of the influential Earthrise photos of planet earth from outer space, the environmental movement, and in turn the pages of Citizens’ Bulletin, present us with an inspiring array of new ideas about how to live on a changing planet. From air pollution, cars, and land trusts, to recycling, solar energy, and wetlands protection, virtually all of the major environmental issues and policies of today can be traced back to the now decades-old pages of Citizens’ Bulletin.

The Connecticut College Connection

Connecticut College Arboretum on the cover of the June 1984 issue of Citizens' Bulletin.

Connecticut College Arboretum on the cover of the June 1984 issue of Citizens’ Bulletin.

Environmental conservation efforts right here at Connecticut College are documented in the pages of Citizens’ Bulletin. In addition to a cover story on The Connecticut [College] Arboretum in the June 1984 issue that makes the College’s presence in the Bulletin’s history explicit, wetlands protection is a topic addressed throughout the Bulletin’s history, from the first issue to the last, leaving the College’s role implicit throughout. The implicit role can better be understood by recognizing the environmental leadership of professor emeritus William Niering (1924-1999), who advocated for the passage of landmark legislation to protect Connecticut’s wetlands with the 1972 Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act (IWWA), just a year before the launch of Citizens’ Bulletin (see Niering’s ‘72  testimony here). 

Wetlands on the cover of the February 1987 issue of Citizens' Bulletin.

Wetlands on the cover of the February 1987 issue of Citizens’ Bulletin.

In 1987, when the IWWA act was amended, just a few years before the Bulletin would cease publication, Niering testified again on behalf of wetlands protection (click here for Niering’s ‘87 testimony). Hence, the entire print-run of the Bulletin is virtually bookended between important wetlands legislation that was championed right here at Connecticut College. Over the years, there were cover stories on wetlands in the March 1976, December 1977, January 1978, May 1984, and the February 1987 issues, which all bear a trace of Niering’s impact. 

Summary of Digitization

Citizens’ Bulletin was discovered serendipitously in the stacks of the Charles E. Shain Library at Connecticut College around August 2017, when news organizations briefly turned their attention towards New London, Connecticut, to learn that Maggie Redfern of The Connecticut College Arboretum was defending her un-mowed lawn before a hearing in front of the city’s blight officer.  That’s when staff at Shain Library noticed the article “A Few Beautiful Reasons Not to Cut the Grass” by

"A Few Beautiful Reasons Not to Cut the Grass" featured in the September 1989 issue of Citizens' Bulletin.

“A Few Beautiful Reasons Not to Cut the Grass” featured in the September 1989 issue of Citizens’ Bulletin.

Carol Rettenmeyer of the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History in the September 1989 issue of Citizens’ Bulletin, and realized there was more context to the no-mow topic than was immediately apparent in the news. This unexpected connection that was made in the library stacks set the initial spark for thinking about the value of making Citizens’ Bulletin available in a new way by digitizing the whole thing. 

It turns out Shain Library’s print holdings of Citizens’ Bulletin only go back to 1979. Having received permission from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to digitize and make publicly available the entire print run (Chris Collibee, personal communication, January 8, 2019) meant we would need to find the rest of the back issues in another library. Fortunately, according to WorldCat both the Connecticut State Library and UCONN’s Library hold collections of back issues, and the State Library was happy to let us scan from theirs. 

Connecticut College student Rachel Haines '20 scans an issue of Citizens' Bulletin in Shain Library.

Connecticut College student Rachel Haines ’20 scans an issue of Citizens’ Bulletin in Shain Library.

So began an effort to scan the State Library’s issues from 1973 to 1979, and Shain Library’s issues from 1979 to 1991. At the State Library a ScanX flatbed scanner was used to scan all issues in readable form. At Shain Library, the remaining issues were scanned using a KIC Bookeye 4 V2 scanner set to 400 DPI. Many thanks to Rachel Haines ’20 for handling the vast majority of scanning in Shain Library during the summer of 2019. And many thanks to Lori Looney, Technical Services and E-Resources Specialist, for handling the vast majority of uploading  to Internet Archive during the fall 2019 semester.

Directions for Future Research

The discovery of Citizens’ Bulletin in the stacks of Shain Library is evidence of a slogan I am occasionally heard repeating — there are hidden treasures in Shain Library (see p.9). The more creative and interpretive rigor we bring to bear on our library collections, naturally, the more we will be able to appreciate their tremendous riches. Given the way Citizens’ Bulletin brings together a diverse array of truly global environmental concerns and grounds them in issues and policies affecting Connecticut towns, makes this digitization project a research tool of potential interest to those concerned with the “global-local engagement” component of the College’s Connections curriculum.

The Citizens’ Bulletin collection on Internet Archive could be of research interest to budding scholars in ConnCourses, the Critical Interpretation and Analysis Mode of Inquiry courses, the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, the Museum Studies Certificate Program, the Social Justice and Sustainability Pathway, as well as to so many other people from diverse backgrounds. Anyone with an interest in the environment and its protection in Connecticut will find a wealth of historical context in the pages of Citizens’ Bulletin. Though, it does leave one to wonder why so little has changed since the days when this wonderful little Bulletin was still circulating. Alas, why not take this opportunity to start reading it again and we can pick up right where we left off?

Postcards: Pictures of Our Places and of Ourselves

It is easy to dismiss the value of ephemera like picture postcards. All of us have found old collections in the attics of our parents and grandparents. Antique stores often have large collections available for sale. EBay has become a terrific boon for the sellers of postcards, giving them access to a national, and sometimes international, market. We know that looking through them are fun, but do they have real research value? Or are these bits of visual flotsam and jetsam simply fodder for people who obsessively collect anything historical? Perhaps. But historians of human events, society, and architecture are turning to them more and more frequently as an interesting, sometimes important, primary source.

Picture postcards, either photographic or art cards, represent how someone has chosen to show and define a place, and further, how someone else has chosen to define their experience with that place. They show us interpretations of history, as well as history’s record.

Like any photograph, we are seeing an event or a place through the eyes and the mind of a photographer. But then we also frequently see the place through the mind of the person who purchased and sent the card. The picture postcard is really, in so many ways, a precursor to our modern habits of creating selfies and spreading them via social media platforms. Turn old postcards over, and frequently you will find a “I WAS HERE!” note.

So their value lies in the choices made: the choice to take or draw a picture or event, AND the choice to purchase and spread a reaction.

Some Examples of the use of Postcards in Research

In History:

Sometimes the historical value of a card is small; a point of time or interest in some local history. Here’s one from a major educational institution:


In the absence of other photographs, photographic postcards can be used in historic and architectural preservation studies. In this example, there were no written or photographic records in the Harvard University Archives of the original location of the now famous statue of John Harvard, currently situated in Harvard Yard. Only with postcards could the statue’s original location be established, some 500 feet away outside of the Yard.

Sometimes picture postcards can give us visual insight into a local event and its effects. Here’s one recording the effect of the 1938 hurricane on downtown Providence RI:


Or postcards may help bolster a narrative on a national or international event:

So, a picture of White Star’s Titanic:

…and a picture from the Carpathia, which was one of the rescue ships that arrived at the Titanic’s sinking. Here is a picture of some survivors on deck:


Those examples appear to be relatively noncontroversial. But collecting a wealth of cards on a particular era or event can actually help to look deeper into contemporary interpretation of an event. Postcards can be visual facts about how contemporary people and countries were interpreting major events.

So, from the Vietnam War era, we have multiple photographers’ lenses to look through:

A postcard of American and South Vietnamese allies in combat:


…and a picture of North Vietnamese troups:

…and finally, unrest at home in 1965 outside the United Nations:


Going one step further in the presentation of contemporary history are the art or comic postcards that people create. Sometimes these were sold as political statements, but they were often simple contemporary interpretation of events or people, reflecting attitudes and biases.

From World War I:

And from World War II:

A good published example of how both photographic and drawn postcards can reflect an entire national identity can be found in Tim Semmerling’s book Israeli and Palestinian Postcards: Presentations of National Self.

By searching OneSearch using the subject heading Postcards, any number of books on subjects such as postcards representing colonial attitudes, postcards as political propaganda, etc. can be found.

Researching Social Attitudes

Equally interesting, but often very uncomfortable, are art postcards that inadvertently clearly illustrate social attitudes, perhaps unattractive attitudes. Good examples of this are the depiction of women, or of the Japanese in political postcards of WWII, or the depiction of African Americans (I should note of the picture below, I selected the LEAST offensive card I could find):

“Yass uh, of course I’se happy down south”

And modern America? We became so enraptured with our modern selves starting in the 1940s. Did you know, for instance, that there was a huge market for postcards of highways and highway rest stops starting around World War 2 and into the 1970s?! “We are modern! We are mobile!”

Sunrise Over One of Florida’s Modern Highways

Finding Postcards

The open web, as well as sale sites such as EBay, are excellent places to find examples. Be aware, however, that there may be copyright restrictions on an image’s use. For large national and international collections go to The Digital Library of America. Search the term “postcards”, and you will find more than you could ever want!

Some Local Resources

At Connecticut College, our Linda Lear Special Collections and Archives does not have an enormous collection of postcards, but it does have several hundred depicting Connecticut College, New London, and other Southeastern Connecticut Locations. There is also an online exhibit of some of the New London cards entitled New London Postcards Online:


A postcard of New London’s oldest cemetery.

If you are doing local history in any location, do not forget to contact local historical societies, which are usually incredible collections of…well, everything! For instance, the New London County Historical Society also has a collection of approximately 1000 postcards. Their collection features images of both New London, and New London Country.

Library Helps Expand Use of GIS to the Social Sciences

While use of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Lab at Connecticut College is focused primarily in the field of Environmental Studies, it could also be useful to students and researchers across the social sciences. So I was excited recently when working with Joseline Urbina ’19 on her Honors Thesis in the Government department when it became clear that she could use GIS for her project. What follows is Joseline’s own brief summary of her project and how GIS was leveraged to further her research. Many thanks to Joseline for agreeing to share this preview of her work in progress. And many thanks to Professor Beverly Chomiak for supporting this kind of research.

Joseline Urbina ’19

Government Major

For my honors thesis in the Government Department, I am conducting an exploratory case study of Ayanna Pressley’s 2018 Campaign for the Democratic Primary nomination in Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District. Throughout my research, I will examine the strategies used during the election, the campaign, and the transition period to study how Pressley won against a ten-term incumbent to become Massachusetts’ first African American Congresswoman, and what does the win suggest for the future of politics.

One portion of my thesis required me to study the geographical boundaries of the district in which Pressley won. However, after searching online (e.g. Google Image search), I was unable to find a map of the Precincts and Wards that are in the district. So I enlisted the support of our research librarians. During one of my research consultations with the librarians, I learned that it would be possible to create the map I was looking for using the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) lab in the Olin Science Center on campus.

So with the help of Andrew Lopez, I contacted all of the towns in the 7th Congressional district in order to collect the GIS shapefiles we’d need to make the map. Once the shapefiles were collected, we contacted Professor Beverley Chomiak, Senior Lecturer in Geology and Environmental Sciences, who also runs the GIS lab, to ask for her assistance in putting a map together.

This map shows all precincts in the 7th Congressional District color coded with percentages of votes received by each candidate in the September 4, 2018 Democratic primary.

This map shows all precincts in the 7th Congressional District color coded with percentages of votes received by each candidate in the September 4, 2018 Democratic primary.

Professor Chomiak worked around the clock to assemble the map from the less-than-ideal files we had collected. Once the Wards and Precincts were assembled for the 7th District, the voting results were layered into the map and color-coded to exhibit where each candidate received the most votes during the Primary Election.

These maps have enabled me to visually analyze the election results in a new way, and they have also highlighted the significance of gerrymandering in the district, which expanded my research. As I continue with my thesis, I plan to continue to use GIS where possible, as it proved extremely helpful in increasing my data and analysis.


Book Exhibit in Shain Library Captures the Attention of Human Rights Advocate

There is a small rotating exhibit of books on display in Shain Library related to a current event or theme on campus. One recent exhibit on Guns in America caught the attention of the international human rights and peace advocate, Binalakshmi “Bina” Nepram, who is a visiting scholar in residence at Connecticut College.

Nepram — who was recently awarded the prestigious Anna Politkovskaya Award, established in 2006 to remember the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed for her reporting on the Russian conflict in Chechnya — has been researching arms proliferation around the India-Burma border for the past 15 years. Her work is all over the internet and a quick scan of Google Scholar indicates that she’s been publishing for at least that long. So I was surprised at her 2nd campus-wide dialogue series on global gun violence (October 26, 2018) to learn that the guns exhibit in Shain Library actually caught her attention.

Local New London peace advocate and author Frida Berrigan joined Bina Nepram in the Walter Commons for a discussion on gun violence (26 Oct. 2018).

Local New London peace advocate and author Frida Berrigan joined Bina Nepram in the Walter Commons for a discussion on gun violence (October 26, 2018).

Nepram told me that she “loved those books,” that she “devoured them,” and that they were “stunning!” To understand why, let’s consider where she is coming from.

I first saw Bina Nepram speak on June 26, 2018, at the Eastern Connecticut One Book, One Region kickoff event for this year’s selection, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. She took a very simple approach to introducing the book by placing it in the real world context of the global migration crisis currently underway. Within the first few minutes of her talk, I estimate that about half of the approximately 100 people in attendance burst into tears, myself included. Of the talk, Bina later told me that she was very nervous, because she had “never commented on another author’s work in that way before.”

Because Nepram is an established international scholar, who has given a Ted Talk no less, I think she means she was nervous because she was not used to commenting on novels. But she handled Exit West with an incredible attention to detail as she read the real world trauma of migrants into select passages from the book. “I love books,” she says. And more importantly for the sake of this blog, she considers libraries the living rooms of America; a place where one can be oneself and feel safe and secure. She knows, because when she first arrived in the US for reasons of personal safety, she was able to get her bearings at the New York Public Library.

Faculty, staff, and students at the 2nd dialogue on gun violence.

Faculty, staff, and students at the 2nd dialogue on gun violence.

Her transition to mostly-rural southeastern Connecticut at the beginning of the year was more complicated. Let’s just say American hospitality wasn’t the welcome party she was expecting. In India, she says everyone would invite you over for tea or whatever. Even the King, she says, sometimes disguises himself in order to test the hospitality of his subjects. During her first few months in Connecticut, she says it felt like no one said anything to her. She was isolated and alone, she felt imprisoned, and she wondered what she was doing here.

Then she was in Shain Library, her big American living room on campus, and she noticed the display of books on guns in America, and she had a Eureka moment. Look at all of these books organized according to a theme, she thought! Then she checked the majority of them out and began reading about the history of guns and violence in the United States. At her 2nd campus-wide dialogue series on global gun violence, she mentioned that she researches guns and violence in part because they are very scary to her and they represent a real threat to her and her family.  Importantly, she reads about guns in order to understand them and overcome her fear.

Binalakshmi Nepram checking out the New Books display in Shain Library.

Binalakshmi Nepram checking out the New Books display in Shain Library. The current exhibit on the AIDS Quilt is visible in the background.

Her discovery of books about guns in Shain Library happened in the summer of 2018, a time riddled with multiple mass shootings in the United States. To name only several, there was the Douglass High School shooting in Parkland, Florida (Feb. 14), the Santa Fe High School shooting in New Mexico (May 18), and the Thousand Oaks, California shooting (Nov. 7). The Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Oct. 27) happened within 24 hours of the 2nd campus-wide dialogue series on global gun violence that Bina led with the support of Frida Berrigan.

Bina and I met recently to talk about her experiences. She is a wonderful and powerful speaker, but she is also really enthusiastic and incredibly humble. She told me the books about guns exhibit in Shain library helped her understand why she is here in Connecticut. “Why is America the world’s leading international arms dealer,” she asked me rhetorically. Gun making started right here in Norwich, Connecticut, she said, as an artisanal craft industry to fight against the British. Nepram began speaking about the life of Sarah Winchester, heiress of The Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which was one of the biggest gun makers in the world. A lot of their rifles were used in the US Civil War, and they were established in nearby New Haven.

“Books!” Bina says. “They are like strange animals.” Whoever created that exhibit, she told me, must really understand these issues. Nepram really liked the variety of sub-topics, with books on women and guns, for example. But one thing that really stood out to her was the inclusion of children’s books. She says there are always children’s books in the exhibits and she loves that. Her daughter visited recently, and of course they read children’s books together in Shain Library.



Original Publications by James Baldwin in Shain Library

To mark the occasion of what would have been James Baldwin’s 94th birthday, we’re going fairly deep into library collections, back to the source of Baldwin’s early works in their original published form in magazines, before they were collected in the books we know today. What follows is a brief introduction to Baldwin’s recent popularity, which no doubt echoes his celebrity in the 1960s, followed by selected images of original Baldwin publications in Shain Library—it’s amazing to think they’ve been here at Connecticut College all along.

The popularity of the work of James Baldwin seems to have grown substantially around the time of the release of the film I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck, 2017) and likely contributed to its success. In August 2017, I went to take a look at a couple of Baldwin’s former apartments in New York City, and one of the current residents told me , “ever since that movie came out, people have been coming by to have a look at the building.” It is not all about the movie, however, as Douglas Field documents a renewed interest in Baldwin starting in the late 1990s, when some of his later and overlooked works began to be reconsidered (Field, James Baldwin 86). Now hardly a week goes by without Baldwin’s name being mentioned in The New York Times newspaper or The New Yorker magazine; an ironic outcome for the author of Nobody Knows My Name (1961). In May,  former President Bill Clinton told the New York Times that James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is one of the books that “made me want to become a writer.”

James Baldwin lived in an apartment in this building on Horatio Street in Greenwich Village.

James Baldwin lived in an apartment in this building on Horatio Street in Greenwich Village. The building has since been completely gutted and renovated.

In November 2017, Hilton Als of The New Yorker introduced the re-release of Nothing Personal (1964), Baldwin’s collaborative project with photographer and former DeWitt Clinton High School mate Richard Avedon. Two of the latest developments of the Baldwin buzz include the 2018 publication of Magdalena Zaborowska’s Me and My House: James Baldwin’s Last Decade in France, and Michael Eric Dyson’s What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation about Race in America. Before these, in 2015 we saw the publication of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s best-selling, Baldwin-inspired book, Between the World and Me

In his 2017 best-seller, We Were Eight Years in Power, Coates again explicitly states his intention “to try” to write in the vein of James Baldwin (218). It has become customary for those writing about race in America to invoke Baldwin’s legacy, as we see in the example of the powerful collection of essays brought together by Jesmyn Ward, The  Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race (2016). While The Fire Next Time is the go-to starting place for an introduction to Baldwin, there is disagreement about how best to engage his work. Joseph Vogel argues that “no single work by Baldwin is as connected to the issues animating Black Lives Matter as his final nonfiction book, The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985)”, which was written at a time says Vogel when Baldwin had “lost the public’s affection”.

As part of the recent resurgence, in the fall of 2017 I participated in a reading group at Connecticut College for James Baldwin’s first collection of early essays, Notes of A Native Son (1955). The group was organized by Rose Oliveira, Erin Duran, and Visiting Assistant Professor of French, Benjamin Williams (they also organized a subsequent reading of We Were Eight Years in Power, mentioned above). I was immediately excited to discover in the acknowledgments section of the book that most of the essays in Notes had been previously published in the 1940s and 1950s in magazines that are still available in Shain Library. To be sure, a number of Baldwin’s books, like those of many authors, are indeed collections of previously published work. Curious to see them in their original form, I began tracking them down.

Just as I am Not Your Negro played a part in exposing a new generation to the life and work of James Baldwin, extending it to a wider audience, so too I think it has had the unintended effect of adding another layer between the reader/viewer and the work itself (if such a thing exists), concealing it in a way that is not immediately obvious. There is a world of context — what was happening at the time, where was it published, who were the editors, who were the other contributors, who were the readers, etc. — that is hidden in the form of the original publication that may not be apparent to the reader of a reprint.


“The Harlem Ghetto,” Baldwin’s first published essay, originally appeared in the February 1948 issue of Commentary. Baldwin-biographer David Leeming calls it Baldwin’s first essay publication, distinguishing it from his book reviews and other early works (Leeming 51). Between 1947 and 1949, when Baldwin was just 22-25 years old (born August 2, 1924), he published an astounding 16 reviews in The Nation and The New Leader (Field, “James Baldwin’s Life” 833). These publications earned him the beginnings of a transatlantic reputation even before he first set foot in France in November 1948.

Commentary, February 1948

[Click to enlarge] Commentary, February 1948. Notice the Palmer Library embossment in the upper-left corner, and the corrected typo for the date of publication.

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Commentary, February 1948 – table of contents. Notice that then 23-year old Baldwin is already published in the company of New York’s leading intellectuals.

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“The Harlem Ghetto” by James Baldwin. Notice the 1948 biographical statement (bottom-left).

Notice the slight annotations in pencil (right column).

When “Everybody’s Protest Novel” appeared in the June 1949 issue of Partisan Review — an attack on “the most famous African American writer [Richard Wright] of his time” and an early mentor (Field, James Baldwin 15) — the young Baldwin was already a “seriously recognized presence on the literary scene” (Leeming 73). Moreover, it was one of the first significant essays by an African American to be published in Partisan Review, impinging directly on the established relation between race and writing at the time (Field, “James Baldwin’s Life” 847).

[Click to enlarge] Partisan Review, June 1949. Unfortunately, the cover was removed in binding so we are left only with the title page.  The essay was originally published in Zero magazine (Spring 1949), before appearing in Partisan Review.

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Partisan Review, June 1949 – table of contents.

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“Everybody’s Protest Novel” by James Baldwin.

“The Negro in Paris” appeared in the June 6, 1950 issue of The Reporter:

The Reporter, June 6, 1950.

[Click to enlarge] The Reporter, June 6, 1950.

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The Reporter, June 6, 1950 – table of contents.

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“The Negro in Paris” by James Baldwin. Notice the illustrations.

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“A Question of Identity” was published in the July-August 1954 issue of Partisan Review:

[Click to enlarge] Partisan Review, July-August 1954.

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“A Question of Identity” by James Baldwin.

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[Click to enlarge] Checkout cards in the back of this binding could indicate interest in the issue or in Baldwin in particular.

“Life Straight in De Eye” was published in Commentary in January 1955:

Commentary, January 1955.

Commentary, January 1955.

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Commentary, January 1955 – table of contents.

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“Life Straight in De Eye” by James Baldwin. Notice the development of his biographical statement (bottom-left) from the earlier 1948 issue (pictured above).

Beyond the sources listed above that were collected in Notes of a Native Son, there are a number of other compelling, original publications by Baldwin in Shain Library, a few of which are featured below.


The Nation, April 12, 1947. Baldwin's first published book review.

[Click to enlarge] The Nation, April 12, 1947. Baldwin’s first published book review.

Baldwin in Nation_Page_07

The Nation, April 12, 1947 – table of contents. Notice Kay Boyle is a contributor. She is the one who invited Baldwin to speak at Wesleyan University on May 22, 1963.

Kay Boyl's piece in the same issue as Baldwin's.

Kay Boyle’s piece in the same issue as Baldwin’s.

Baldwin in Nation_Page_08

“Maxim Gorki as Artist” by James Baldwin.

Baldwin in Nation_Page_09

“Maxim Gorki as Artist” by James Baldwin.

Baldwin in Nation_Page_10

The ad next to Baldwin’s article.

[Click to enlarge] “Letter From a Region in My Mind” was published in The New Yorker, November 17, 1962, causing the magazine’s sales to soar, before it would become the major portion of The Fire Next Time in 1963. At the time, Baldwin was between continents, between visits to the White House, and a rising star on the international literary scene.

"Letter From a Region in My Mind" by Baldwin in The New Yorker, November 17, 1962.

“Letter From a Region in My Mind” by Baldwin in The New Yorker, November 17, 1962.

"Letter to My Nephew" is the other essay that would be collected in The Fire Next Time (1963). Before that, however, it was published in The Progressive, December 1962.

“Letter to My Nephew” is the other essay that would be collected in The Fire Next Time (1963). Before that, however, it was published in The Progressive, December 1962.

The December, 1962 issue of The Progressive marked the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, and it included a letter from president John F. Kennedy addressing the occasion.

The December 1962 issue of The Progressive marked the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, and it included a letter from president John F. Kennedy addressing the occasion.

The Progressive, December 1962 - table of contents.

The Progressive, December 1962 – table of contents.

“Letter to My Nephew” by James Baldwin in The Progressive, December 1962.

In March 1963, Baldwin testified before the House of Representatives with Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X. In his testimony, Baldwin argued that whitewashing American history would deny the black American a sense of identity.

In March 1963, Baldwin testified before the House of Representatives with Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X. In his testimony, Baldwin argued that whitewashing American history would deny the black American a sense of identity.

Baldwin in Nation_Page_05

Notice Betty Shabazz’s name is misspelled “Shadazz”.

James Baldwin interview in the Paris Review no. 91 (1984)

James Baldwin interview in the Paris Review no. 91 (1984). In the interview Baldwin talks about his early book reviews from the late 1940s.

Beginning of James Baldwin interview in Paris Review (1984)

Beginning of James Baldwin interview in Paris Review (1984).

Architectural Digest, August 1987.

Architectural Digest ran this photographic profile of James Baldwin's French home in 1987 shortly before his death.

Architectural Digest ran this photographic profile of James Baldwin’s French home alongside a short piece by Baldwin in 1987 shortly before his death. It was his last published work.

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Notice here Baldwin uses the now-famous term “transatlantic commuter” to describe his itinerant path.

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Architectural Digest, August 1987.

In 1989, artist, printer, and book maker Leonard Baskin made a posthumous illustrated limited edition of a few Baldwin poems published by his Gehenna Press. The Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives maintains a Leonard Baskin Collection that includes Baldwin's Gypsy & Other Poems.

In 1989, artist, printer, and book maker Leonard Baskin made a posthumous illustrated limited edition of selected Baldwin poetry published by his Gehenna Press. The Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives maintains a Leonard Baskin Collection that includes Baldwin’s Gypsy & Other Poems.

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Gypsy & Other Poems by James Baldwin.

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Gypsy poem by Baldwin.

Checkout card for James Baldwin's Going to Meet the Man

Checkout card for James Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man. Obviously the book was pretty popular at Connecticut College.

Checkout card for James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain

Checkout card for James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain. The book clearly circulated widely on the Connecticut College campus.


Field, Douglas. James Baldwin. Tavistock, Devon, UK: Northcote House, 2011.

Field, Douglas. “James Baldwin’s Life on the Left: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young New York Intellectual.” ELH 78.4 (2011): 833-862.

Leeming, David. James Baldwin: A Biography. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Happy to Help! Rating Customer Satisfaction for Information Services with the MISO Survey


The student was panicked. She dropped the thumb drive on the counter. “I saved the document 20 times but it keeps coming out with a big white line down the middle and it’s due in 2 hours and I have a class now and I’ve never used Adobe Illustrator before so I must have done something wrong but I don’t know how to fix it and now I’m going to get a zero!” “Okay,” said the IT Service Desk staff member calmly, “no problem, we can fix this.” The staff member took the thumb drive, sent the student to class, fixed the file, and brought the thumb drive to the office to hand it in on time for the student. No problem.

The story above is just another moment in a day in the life of Information Services. It is difficult to quantify the importance of the resources and services offered through the department. Since 2009, we have used the MISO survey to get a picture of customer satisfaction with information services staff, resources and services. The MISO survey is administered biannually to assess the importance of, and satisfaction with, library and technology services. It also attempts to take a snapshot of attitudes and practices relating to information usage. MISO is an acronym that stands for Measuring Information Services Outcomes; it’s a nonprofit survey provider based at Bryn Mawr College, and numerous colleges and universities administer the survey each year. For more information on the survey, visit

The survey was administered in February 2018 and had the following response rates: 58.4% of faculty (146 responses), 41.9% of staff (211 responses), and 66.6% of a random sample of approximately 700 students (i.e., 466 responses). The high participation rate for MISO shows the value placed on communications and collaboration at Connecticut College. The departments that comprise Information Services are made stronger by soliciting and listening to feedback provided by MISO and other assessments.


Information Services staff members received very high mean trait ratings from all groups surveyed. Respondents were asked to rate staff on four criteria (friendliness, knowledgeability, reliability and responsiveness). Taking ratings across these four criteria as an average, all staff areas received a score of at least 3.5 out of 4 (with 3 representing “somewhat agree” and 4 representing “agree”).

The focus on customer service is a priority for all departments and service points in Information Services. The reference department was rated 3.9 out of 4 in all traits. The IT Service Desk has made it a priority to train student workers for high quality customer service as well as expert technical knowledge. Their ratings have gone up consistently since 2014 from 3.14 in 2014 to 3.7 out of 4 in 2018. Striving for better service and pursuing excellence in library and technology services is a crucial part of the Information Services culture.

While services remain important, faculty and students rated the importance of the library’s collections very highly for attaining research and teaching goals. 79 percent of faculty said “technology used in courses and classrooms” greatly contributes to teaching. 61 percent said the “physical and digital library collections” greatly contributes. 50 percent said “working with librarians” greatly contributes and 43 percent said “working with technology professionals” greatly contributes. 87 percent of students said “technology used in courses and classrooms” contributed greatly or moderately to achieving their academic goals. 82 percent of students said the “physical and digital library collections” contributed greatly or moderately to achieving their academic goals.



MISO found that the majority of students never backup their data. 37.9 percent of students said they never back up their data. 33.7 percent of students said they backup data once or twice a semester. 18.6 percent of students said they backup data one to three times a month. 7.3 percent of students said they backup data one to three times a week. 2.4 percent of students said they backup data more than three times a week. This information provides an opportunity to educate students about the importance of backing up their data and the help and hardware that can be found at the Information Services IT Services Desk.


Satisfaction ratings have improved from 2016-2018 for “wireless access on campus,”  “availability of wireless access on campus,” and CamelWeb across all groups surveyed. Maintaining consistent and accessible wireless services on campus, and making CamelWeb more accessible and user-friendly is a priority for Information Services staff.

Survey results are a good way to analytically measure satisfaction of services. But how do we measure the patience and care that reference librarians ensure is a part of every research appointment at the reference desk? How do we paint a picture of the friendly smile of the student in IT Services who answers each question expertly. How do we gauge the impact of providing innovative learning spaces, addressing research anxiety, and new ways to highlight student and faculty research with digital platforms? “Value isn’t just about quantitative measures but also subjective activities that are hard to measure.” Taylor and Francis Surveys statistics narrative. The MISO 2018 survey results show that a short term goal such as excellent customer service inevitably leads to long term objectives such as retention and community engagement.

Stashing Your Stuff, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love RefWorks (with apologies to Stanley Kubrick…)

Every day at the Reference Desk we are exposed to what some people might uncharitably call student disorganization: laptops with 80 pdfs on the desktop, or browsers with 25 tabs open to different papers. Students scramble through these messes as they talk to us. But in fairness, it is not dissimilar to desks piled high with physical papers and books. (Where oh where did I put that paper by Professor Jennifer Smith?)

The truth is that the acts of collecting and then FINDING all the “stuff” we MIGHT be using in a particular research project, create age-old problems. Some might argue that if the stuff is in print, stacks and files can be created that help organize it. But, honestly, those stacks and files often do not get created. And are they really any different than students creating folders on their laptops to dump stuff into?

Another truth is that what appears to be disorganization is often part of the evolution of a person’s thought process. Searching through pages, triangulating on ideas, sifting back and forth – those are intellectual activities that can be part of the development of new ideas and the finding of new directions. Real organization of our stuff takes place when our thinking has evolved to the point that we know what our questions are and where we might be taking our ideas.

Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash

We all know that programs such as RefWorks can make the creation of correctly formatted footnotes/endnotes/in-text citations and bibliographies much easier. It’s a better software to use than EasyBib (which many students use before coming to college), although it lacks the sophistication of EndNote or Zotero, which many people on the graduate level and above use. For most projects RefWorks works well, and students can save and transport their materials anywhere, and, if they wish, eventually move their citations to one of the more sophisticated systems. A vast majority of colleges and universities offer access to RefWorks. (For a more detailed description of using RefWorks, go to Andrew Lopez’s post on this blog.

But it is easy to get hung up on this formal use of RefWorks for producing the footnotes/endnotes/bibliographies etc. for research papers and projects. The truth is, it can have equal value as being a storage and organizational tool for the things we collect for research projects. Like clearing stacks of paper and books off of our physical desks, it can clear the top of our virtual desktops.


If you are a student who prefers to read digitally and never have stacks of paper, consider whether your virtual desktop is as messy as your friend’s or professor’s physical desk.

If you are a faculty member, you can help simplify many students’ lives by suggesting that they use this organizational tool. You might even (if you don’t already use a citation manager) consider signing up for it yourself. It is robust enough to handle many publication projects.

So, think about stashing your stuff. Finding things will be easier, and recycling is never a problem.

Sign up here. If you have questions when you are using it, come to Reference and ask for help.

3rd Annual Library Prize Recipient – Dominic Lentini

For the last three years, Shain Library has been awarding a Library Research Prize. Each student applicant must submit detailed information on their research process, and get faculty support for the submission. This is the essay/application for this year’s winner, Dominic Lentini. Dominic is a senior, and a double-major in International Relations and French. His paper was entitled: Media Framing, Violent Protest, and Race: A Comparative Analysis of The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ coverage of the Ferguson Protests.

Dominic Lentini ’18
Research Statement
Spring 2018

Describe how you came to choose your topic, specifically noting any pre-research that you did. What sources did you use in this pre-research? To what extent did you consult with librarians, faculty, or others? How did this pre-research lead you to your topic?

The process through which I arrived at my final topic was very time consuming. The first proposal I wrote was about protest repression, media coverage, and the police. For this, I first consulted the textbooks as well as other assigned readings for our class and I critically examined their bibliographies to help guide me in the direction of appropriate and related literature. This search involved exploring both theoretical literature to establish a framework for my analysis, as well as information on potential case studies and primary sources that could be used to take the existing research in a new direction. Using those sources as a springboard, I compiled a large list of peer reviewed articles and books on protest policing, policy, and organization, as well as on media coverage of protests.

However, as I began to read through those texts, consult with my professor, and meet with research librarians, I realized that what I had proposed could be three separate papers. While my research clearly started with a very large scope and a lot of energy was used to research topics that I did not write about, over roughly a month and a half of reading and evaluating sources, I eventually guided and narrowed my initial interests into a topic that was appropriate for the course: Media Framing, Violent Protest, and Race: A Comparative Analysis of The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ coverage of the Ferguson Protests.

Describe your process of finding information for your project. Note specifically the tools you used to undertake your research, as well as the specific search strategies you used within these tools. (Note: “Ebsco,” being an umbrella vendor, is not a specific enough response when identifying tools; listing the “library database” is also an unacceptably vague answer.

Specific tools include JSTOR, America:History & Life, Web of Science, etc., along with OneSearch, the new library system.)

As I described in question one, the first step in my process was exploring the sources used in the bibliographies of sources provided for my course. Following that, however, I used the library’s OneSearch, JSTOR, Political Science Complete, Google Scholar, and Lexis Nexis as the main tools for finding new articles and books. Within all of the databases I would do advanced searches with a variety of different search terms such as “framing,” “media framing,” “framing violence,” “framing race,” “framing protest” and many combinations within those terms. I would then read the abstracts to gauge potential relevance, and save every potential article to RefWorks so that I could later examine their
methodology, data, and conclusions. For anything I could not access through those databases, I used both the CTW network, WorldCat, and Inter Library Loan to access them. Additionally, within JSTOR I explored the utility of their text analyzer, which is in its beta mode.

For collecting my primary source newspaper articles, I initially used ProQuest Newspapers. I even contacted them, with the help of Andrew Lopez, to learn about how they code and sort their articles. For my data collection process, I used ProQuest Newspapers to search all articles published in certain date ranges based on set search terms in order to create frequency tables of article publication, and then to do content analysis of a selection of those articles. I realized, however, that some articles were coded inconsistently, and consequently double counted, which threw off all of the article counts. Thus, I did not end up using that particular database. Instead, I used the website search function for both The New York Times’ and the Wall Street Journal’s sites. Using the search functions within each newspaper required more manual work, and I even called the WSJ to get information about how their search feature functioned, but it ultimately provided me with the data I needed.

Describe your process of evaluating the resources you found. How did you make decisions about which resources you would use, and which you wouldn’t? What kinds of questions did you ask yourself about resources in order to determine whether they were worthy of inclusion?

I went through several different steps to evaluate my sources. Firstly, for my literature review, I only considered peer reviewed articles and books. Within sources that met that requirement, I would examine their research methodology as well as their bibliography in order to gauge the soundness and scope of their argument and conclusions. This process, however, still left me with more articles than I could use. Consequently, I made my final selection with the intention of laying a base to the framing literature, then additions and variations to that literature, and finally critiques to it. The ultimate goal was to paint a well-rounded picture of the literature.

The process for selecting background pieces for my case study was more challenging. For one, due to the slow process of academic publication, there does not exist a huge body of peer reviewed literature on the Ferguson protests. Consequently, most of the information on what transpired had to be gathered from newspaper and magazine sources. This, however, left me in a paradoxical situation because I was being pushed to use newspapers as the background for a paper in which I was arguing that newspapers paint a “framed” version of what transpired during the Ferguson protests. To try and mitigate this issue, I used a wide range of newspapers and magazines, as well as any quality academic literature I could find, in order to cross reference and evaluate the validity of my sources. While this did not totally eliminate the issue, it definitely reduced its severity.

Accessing Our Local Newspaper, The Day: Challenges and Opportunities

“Digitizing The Day’s back issues is a dream I haven’t given up on.”

-John Ruddy, Copy Desk Chief at The Day

Connecticut College appears on page four of the 450-page history of our local newspaper, The Day Paper: The Story of One of America’s Last Independent Newspapers. This is because in 1911 the newspaper’s early and prominent publisher, Theodore Bodenwein, championed the cause of establishing Connecticut College for Women in New London at a time when other Connecticut towns were vying for the opportunity to host the new college.

Unfortunately for anyone who wants to fact-check the newspaper’s coverage at the time (i.e. October 19, 1911), or any other historical issue, your best bet is to make a trip down to the Public Library of New London (PLNL), where they maintain a complete run of The Day back to 1881 on microfilm.  The PLNL website even claims they are “the only repository in the world with a complete record of the paper.” While that seems mostly true, it is also the case that the Waterford Public Library, the Groton Public Library, the Connecticut State Library, and The Day itself combined have pieces of what amounts to a second or third microfilm copy of the newspaper’s back issues. Not to mention the film negatives allegedly stored at ProQuest that are used in the creation of the microfilm in the first place. All of these copies combined, however, still amount to a rather precarious legacy for our local paper.

Day index by Groton Public Library

Day on microfilm at PLNL  Day index 1881-1890
The Day on microfilm along with a few incomplete print indexes at the Public Library of New London.

The date of October 19, 1911, cited in The Day Paper makes for an interesting example, because it is not covered by the pieces of The Day that were digitized by Google when the company aspired to scan everything in every library; a project that was abandoned in haste without explanation some years ago. At least that’s how The Day‘s Copy Desk Chief John Ruddy recalls the relationship when he described it to me in recent communications. Ruddy estimates that Google scanned about a third of the paper, “but the gaps are random and unpredictable.”

It was only when I asked Ruddy how anyone can make an authoritative claim about what is, or is not, printed in The Day without systematic access to all of its contents, that he explained how he uses the microfilm in conjunction with several incomplete indexes in existence:

  • a card file maintained from 1929 to 1977 by librarians at The Day
  • a system of story clippings from 1977 to around 2000 also at The Day
  • incomplete print indexes available in local public libraries covering the years 1881-1890, with a partial index to one or two decades later in the 1900s
card file at The Day

Conn College entry in the card file at The Day.

Most of the cabinets that makeup The Day’s card and clipping files.









Budding researchers may be surprised to learn The Day is not free and it is not all online.  It has been cut up with scissors over the years into little pieces of paper folded into envelopes and documented by hand on index cards that are organized  in the drawers of some filing cabinets in an office almost no one still uses, while other components were bound between book covers, photographed, microfilmed, and/or digitized in haste and incompletely, some of it available on the internet for you to puzzle over.  The rest of it is buried until someone comes along to sort it all out, assuming the various scattered pieces will last that long. Besides, who would do such a thing? How long would it take? How much would it cost? How come no one does it?

We have to ask these questions as a starting place in the hope that someday something will happen. Hopefully someone will find a grant or a benefactor and connect with the right people to help advance a project like realizing the complete digitization of The Day.

As part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, the Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project has been working in this direction, to be sure, but each NEH grant received only provides for the digitization of a small portion of one or several papers in a state that has seen the publication of some 1,600 newspapers since the 1700s. One outstanding example is the Hartford Courant which has been well-digitized from 1764-1991, albeit by ProQuest rather than the public, and is available through a database via the CT State Library.

For my part, I have talked with stakeholders at area public libraries and now The Day itself about possibly getting a group together to return to the massive project of indexing the entire paper. At least then we would have a means of making efficient use of the microfilm available at PLNL. Ruddy at The Day told me that if I do resume work on the index, then I should focus on the period from 1890 to 1929, which given the tools available is the hardest portion of the paper to search, in his view.

As for access today, in addition to the abovementioned, here’s what we have:

—Andrew Lopez

Researching Towards Fictional Reality

I thought I’d take a moment and write about a kind of research that many people have not engaged in, that is, doing research for fictional writing.

Now, I am not going to write about the research that must occur for real historical fiction. That genre not only requires knowledge of the rules for writing fiction, but also of the rules for writing history. Sometimes it is done well, sometimes it can read as if you are passing through one notecard to another.

Rather, I’m talking about doing the research that is needed to help pull the reader into the mind of the writer’s characters. Scents, sounds, sights, the feel of the physical world, language and accents – all can help create a deeper sense of involvement and realism. Young writers are often taught that they should only write about what they know. But most of us have lives that intersect with many different types of people and locations, all of which must be presented carefully.

For those who are reading this who do not write fiction, you should understand that the struggle, at times a BATTLE, to pull the readers into a character’s reality is central to the success of fiction. For ultimately, writing exists in the minds of readers, not writers.

Sometimes, the task is simple. If you are writing about a culture you are not intimately familiar with, a little research on another culture’s cuisine can launch the reader into a dinner party in…Riyadh. Or Nairobi. Or Stockholm. The research task can be as simple as finding an appropriate, authentic restaurant. Or talking to someone from the culture, or reading a cookbook. Shain Library has some food-related sources that can also be extremely useful, such as:

Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, New York: Scribner, 2003. 3v. Shain Reference GT 2850.E53 2003.

One of the trickiest areas to deal with is different forms of speech and colloquialism. Again, if you are only writing about people you know, this can be easy. But don’t we all know people from other cultures and places, regions of this country? And if your characters are lodged in an historical era different from your own, how do you handle that? It doesn’t have to be a matter of centuries; what about characters in the 1960s, for instance?

For characters representing different cultures, different areas of the United States, different ethnic groups – speech and dialect can add to honest and realistic portrayals. There are many published works on all languages and dialects that can assist a writer with this. For instance, if you search OneSearch, using a subject heading like:

English language – Dialects – United States

you can find books such as:


American Dialects: A Manual for Actors, Directors, and Writers, Lewis Herman and Marguerite Shalett Herman, New York: Routledge, 1997. Shain PN2071.F6 H39 1997

You can find a wide variety of books across the CTW collections. For more specialized linguistic areas, try searching WorldCat, or asking a reference librarian for help.

A cautionary note: When you are trying to represent language differences in your writing, you must consciously balance honest representation against the readers’ expectations (and possible biases.) People may think that everyone in Boston pahks their cah in Hahvahd Yahd. But, in reality, most people park their car in Harvard Yard (…if in fact they could park there at all, which they cannot!) There can be real tensions between readers’ beliefs and biases, and how people really behave and want to be represented, and these tensions must be presented sensitively.

The internet has also opened up great possibilities for this kind of research. As with any kind of research on the open internet, be careful about the validity of sites and their “facts.” Caution is called for when you are using information that builds characters and their attitudes and experiences.

The internet can be particularly useful when you are searching for information about geographic settings. Open searching on Google, and restricting the search to images, can turn up many usable images – images that can be useful to get a feel for settings that you might not be able to visit, or that you have visited but not lived in. Geographic locations, types of buildings, historic locations, etc., are all easily searched and will turn up a multitude of mood-creating photos. Venice, for instance: if you’ve never experienced that city, or that city beyond its most famous locations, consider this photo and the feeling it generates:

Photo by Wenni Zhou on Unsplash

Pursuing images of this sort can assist a writer in turning their vision into the written word.

Google maps is also a rich location to mine for local geographic information. In years past, hunting through atlases was a common activity for some people writing fiction. Most of that can now be done easily on Google maps.

Finally, can too much research get in the way?

More appropriately, this question should be: Can a writer overuse the results of extensive research? The answer to that question can always be yes, whether the project is a fiction-based work, or a traditional academic work. If an academic writer is writing a review article on a subject, extensive presentation of research is warranted. But when you are using research to answer and support
positions, careful selection of the most relevant and appropriate sources is important.

The same is even truer when integrating research into fictional writing. What effect are you hoping for? How does research support that effect, or that development of a particular character? Simple facts, with a single evocative adjective can often be the solution. One example: He sipped the strong coffee, and the sharp sweet taste spread through his mouth. The careful, unobtrusive presentation of a fact that strikes sensory or emotional notes has much greater effect that a large presentation on Turkish coffee.

Always remember the questions you are seeking to answer, the effect you are reaching for. Use the facts and knowledge you achieve through research to address those things as simply and honestly as possible.

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