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Viewing convention Program information from 2011

Session Details

Saturday, 08 January

500. “Can I Google That?”: Graduate Students Speak Out about the MLA International Bibliography

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Diamond Salon 8, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the MLA Advisory Committee on the MLA International Bibliography

Presiding: Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Highlands Community Coll.

1. “Centering and Networking the MLA International Bibliography,” Sarah Ruth Jacobs, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

2. “Research in English: A Comparative Study of ABELL and MLAIB,” Arun Pokhrel, Univ. of Florida

Author Comment
Subject: CSGSP Summary of Can I Google That?
For the 2011 Convention and in an attempt to help graduate students who missed sessions of interest, the Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Profession developed brief write-ups for said sessions. The following is a brief summary-style write-up for your use. For the 2012 Convention be on the look-out for real-time tweets and summaries of sessions of interest for graduate students!

On this panel, Sarah Ruth Jacobs spoke first, and began by asking how we can use Web 2.0 to help make scholarly conversations less fragmented. The rest of her paper presented two answers. First, she argued for the value of having user profiles linked to the MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB) in order to center and network scholarship. Second, Jacobs looked at how to find the most influential articles when doing research. She surveyed several available methods: sorting (which is not useful because it only counts words), Google’s PageRank algorithm (which is better because it looks at the number and quality of incoming links), and JSTOR’s beta version of DataForResearch (which is the best because it combines search terms with citation impact). Finally, Jacobs argued, the MLAIB database could be made more useful by including citation impact and making it relative to how many times other articles in that year were cited (so that more recent scholarship isn’t always made to seem more influential). By doing this and by making it possible for users to have profiles and public mini-bibliographies, the MLAIB could become a tool for scholarly networking.
Arun Pokhrel’s paper presented a comparison of the MLAIB and the Annual Bibliography of Language and Literature, 1920- (ABELL). Opening with the observation that very few professors actually teach graduate students how to do research and by asking what grad students can do to become hireable and develop a professional identity, Pokhrel went on to list the pros and cons of the two bibliographies: ABELL has a better subject index and more entries; but the MLAIB is better for finding entries that are about more than one work, is more efficient, and has good cross-referencing. So, in his estimation, MLAIB is certainly the better bibliography.
I had to leave after only a couple questions, but the Q&A for this panel was interesting because the audience included representatives from the MLAIB, ProQuest, and Gale. One point that was made is that it may be a good thing that the humanities and arts lag behind the sciences (in going digital with publishing, bibliographies, etc.) because there is still debate about the value of impact factors.