Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Personal Databases and Research

It wasn't long after I began researching the book CROSLEY in 2000 that I began to pile up a lot of resources--magazine articles, books, newspaper stories, and more. There were hundreds by the time I started writing in 2001. I had dozens of originals on a set of "Crosley shelves" in my office, and even more photocopies of reference material in three-ring binders. I eventually ended up with more than 1,500 sources, not counting personal inteviews.

These were difficult to organize because many of them applied to more than one topic. Fortunately, I had started keeping a database into which I entered each book, magazine, or newspaper as I found it. (Only the fact that I entered each item as I found made it possible for me to build the database. I would never have started such a project knowing that there would be so many entries.)

Each entry includes title, issue date, publisher, topics--everything I needed for my purposes. I included materials I didn't have as well as those I did. When I needed to brush up on a particular topic, I went to the database and did a search to quickly locate the references I needed. A hardcopy version of the database turned out to be of interest to Crosley collectors, so I've sold a few here and there as The Crosley Bibliography. (Click here for more information.)

I've since done the same with three more subjects. I doubt I'll be selling copies, though. Nor will these subjects collect anywhere near 1,500 entries.


Music Tomes said...

I'm curious what program you used to do your database. I am beginning research on a biography and I have begun to amass info I would like to keep track of. Right now I have it in a spreadsheet, but I am having trouble searching through it efficiently.


Michael A. Banks said...

I used to use Reflex, a flatfile database program for DOS. I found that I can use Excel the same way. I create fields for title, author, date of publication, a brief description of the contents, and categories. I use 1-letter codes in the categories, and can search for those. C for automobiles, R for radio, B for boradcasting, F for family, and so forth. So I can set up a search or filter to show me all entries that have F in the categories field, and then get all the entries that involve family.

Music Tomes said...

Excellent advice. I am just starting to gather things for the research, so I am still on the ground floor. Thanks again!