Confessions of a Beginning Researcher

I’m a beginner in this world of serious research with so much yet to learn. I also need to develop a little willpower along the way, curbing my natural curiosity to stray off the path when something catches my eye.

I spent a fun hour in the local library yesterday. It started with one small word in the library’s index file – Morgue. The word jumped at me from the Newspaper Index, not what I’d been searching for, but found anyway.

You see, I’m aware the site of the old Municipal Baths was originally occupied by the first city Morgue. This index discovery warranted further investigation.

I tried not looking impatient as I stood behind two people at the librarian’s desk. My turn came. I handed the librarian the name of the newspaper, the date of publication and the page and column I wanted to read – Manawatu Evening Standard, 4 July 1906, page 3, column 3. Then I confessed I had no idea how to access it.

The librarian unlocked the cabinet of antiquated reels of old newspapers on film and helped me load the film and get started. I concentrated on finding the wanted page, ignoring the many fascinating past headlines distracting me. When I found the article the small print challenged my eye sight.

I had three options, print it off at a small cost, e-mail it to myself or bring in a USB stick and copy it for reading at home. I then realised I had a fourth option. 1906 is one of the papers already available on the NZ Papers Past online. I rushed home, impatient to learn more about the community’s outrage at the existence of the Morgue in their residential area. Even worse, it was behind the Opera House, upsetting theatre goers.

From this small entry I found numerous Letters to the Editor complaining about the Morgue. I lost myself in what had been quite a topic of discontent since the Morgue had been established in 1903. The afternoon slipped by unnoticed as a story developed in my head.

Will I be able to use all this information in my next book? Probably not. The Morgue only warrants a small mention, perhaps one or two sentences as background. Was my afternoon spent in reading all I could find useful? Definitely. I now have the background leading up to why the Ashley Street site was chosen for the baths. I also learned how to do newspaper research at the library.

My concern now is staying focussed on the task in hand. How much time should I spend locating information contributing so few words to the final outcome? I still have so much to learn as I go about my research.

I’d love to hear your comments and any tips relating to your own research projects. I’m a real beginner here.

 

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6 thoughts on “Confessions of a Beginning Researcher

  1. Ooo this is interesting for me. I did a short story as part of a series where I wanted to do a flashback in time to 1939, prior to the Japanese invasion of Singapore, for one of my elderly character’s “Nanna Noonie.” I spent two days researching the events that led up to the invasion, and occupation, but also read up a lot and discussed with fellow writers of the ideals of how I would portray the Japanese soldiers at that time. The main part of the story, Nanna Noonie was actually in modern day Japan, so I had to be careful as well in my view, not to be unbalanced in my interpretation. I was pleased with the outcome, and learnt a lot about researching before writing.

    http://charlottecarrendar.com/2013/02/06/well-meet-again/

  2. I love getting lost in the research too. Sometimes the research can really slow the writing down but it’s worth it in the end. It’s also fun to use all different sources from newspaper articles to books or documentaries or even museums – especially when trying to get the feel for a particular historical period.

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