Monday, November 19, 2018

Names as pain points during database searches


One of the obstacles or pain points you'll encounter while doing searches on ProQuest Dissertations or perhaps any database for prominent African American writers and scholars involves names. There are sometimes a variety of ways to spell individual figures, and in some cases the names of the figures change.

There's of course, "W. E. B. DuBois." Or is that "Du Bois"? What about "Charles Chesnutt" vs. "Charles W. Chesnutt." Of course, literary scholars know that Amiri Baraka was once LeRoi Jones, but what might that mean for the searches that people new or unfamiliar to histories of names in the field?

The varied use of middle initials can lead you to miss things in searches. People filing dissertations have written "Charles Chesnutt" as well as "Charles W. Chesnutt." They've written "George Samuel Schuyler," George S. Schuyler," and "George Schuyler." There's "Martin Delany" and "Martin R. Delany." There's "Sterling Brown" and "Sterling A. Brown." Scholars have written "Frances E. W. Harper," "Frances Ellen Watkins Harper," and "Frances Harper."

All those various spellings and initials add up when pursing searches on databases.

Related:
A Notebook on ProQuest Dissertations and Theses

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