Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 6

The past several weeks, we’ve discussed different ways to expand fairly economically the material you have at your disposal for research. We’ve talked about using:

In today’s final post in this series, we’ll discuss four additional resources.

Laptop with open book

1. Loebolus

First up, from various online sources, Loebolus has culled digital copies of Loeb Classical Library volumes that are currently in the public domain. The total number of Loeb volumes available via Loebolus now stands at 277.

You can download each of the volumes individually. Or, you can download them in a batch ZIP file approximately 3.2 GB in size.

Many Loeb volumes either aren’t currently available online or are still under copyright. (You can get a full list of Loeb titles from Harvard University Press.) But even just those that are openly available online represent a wealth of primary literature that’s easily available at your fingertips.

2. Open Access Journals

In biblical studies and cognate fields, several reputable journals are either partially or fully available online via open access. Some of these include:

There is also the Directory of Open Access Journals, where you may find other helpful journals that are also open access.

3. International Cooperation Initiative

The International Cooperation Initiative (ICI) is a program run under the auspices of the Society of Biblical Literature.1 The initiative:

provides free online PDF files to scholars and students who would not otherwise have access to these resources. These resources are available for persons in countries with a per capita GDP that is substantially lower than the average per capita GDP of the United States and the European Union.

Since I live in the United States, I can’t use ICI’s resources. But, it appears that the webpage uses your computer’s Internet address to determine your location and to display a list of accessible titles if you are accessing the service from a qualifying country.

Presumably if you were visiting a qualifying country and connected to the page from there, you would also be able to use ICI resources. So if you live in or, for a time, work from a country that qualifies, you can certainly try to use ICI to boost your access to research material that will otherwise be more challenging to access.

4. Other Digital Humanities Posts

There are too many useful resources online to list them all here. When I come across individual resources that I’ve found helpful and think you might too, I try to post these here under “digital humanities”.

You can check or subscribe to this tag for updates on other resources that haven’t made it into this series for one reason or another.

Conclusion

We began this series by recognizing that we’re responsible for interacting with relevant literature largely irrespective of how easy it is to access. Research often means hunting, and that hasn’t changed even with the explosion in technological research tools in recent decades.

What has changed and what continues to change, however, is the array of tools at the disposal of the biblical scholar for doing this kind of hunting. And there is every reason to use the best tool for the job needing to be done and to be grateful for the many people’s efforts and hours that have gone into preparing those tools for our use.


  1. Oxford University Press also has a separate but similar program

Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 5

At this point, we’ve thought about several different ways to expand the material you have at your disposal for research. We’ve discussed using

Another potentially helpful resource is Amazon.

Amazon logo on the Echo dot over a keyboardImage by Piotr Cichosz

Amazon as Bookseller

Of course, on Amazon, you can buy books often at very competitive prices. But, in keeping with our emphasis on expanding your library for minimal cost, buying books on Amazon won’t be our focus here.

Instead, when you go to a physical bookstore, one of the best things to be able to do is to crack open a book and read a bit in it for yourself.

Amazon originally focused on selling books but has now obviously expanded quite a ways beyond that. Even so, they’ve still tried to mimick the experience of opening a book physically and looking at its contents.

Looking Inside

Here enter the “Look inside” option on the upper-right hand corner of where the cover picture appears on a given book’s page.

Partial product page from Amazon showing the "Look inside" option for the book displayed on the page

Not every book has a “Look inside” option. This is particularly true if it’s a new or prerelease title. But many titles will have this option.

Simply click the cover to “pick up” the book and start previewing it.

Example preview after clicking the "Look inside" option on an Amazon book page

Most helpful here are the links under the “Book sections” menu at the left. Sometimes these are a bit different, but generally what you’ll find are things like:

  • Copyright: This link takes you directly to the copyright information page in the front of the book.
  • Table of Contents: Obviously, being able to see a table of contents for a volume can be particularly helpful. Whether you want to know where to go next, whether to order the book, or what section to request via inter-library loan, the table of contents gives you a good synopsis. Often, the table of contents has links to individual sections within the book as well.
  • First Pages: Just as it sounds, this link takes you directly to the first few pages in the volume. This might be the preface, forward, introduction, or first chapter. It just depends on how the links are done for that individual volume.
  • Index: If the volume has an index, you can click this link to jump there.
  • Back Cover: If you’re interested in endorsements for the volume or information about the author, you can use this link to jump to the back cover, which will often have information like this. In hardback books with dust covers, sometimes you’ll see links for the front and back flaps in addition to or instead of a back cover link.
  • Surprise Me!: This link mimics the experience of flipping open a book at random and looking at whatever you happen to find there.

Use Cases

As with Google, Amazon’s previews will only show you some of the pages in a given book due to copyright law.

Even so, there are several scenarios where Amazon’s “Look inside” option can give you helpful information about a volume or its contents.

  1. With the copyright page preview, you can confirm bibliographic data. For instance, if you’ve inter-library loaned a chapter from a book and haven’t gotten all the publication information you need for that title, this can be a good way to fill in what’s missing for your citation or bibliography.
  2. From the table of contents, you can jump to read various sections of a book, or as much of those sections as the preview allows you to see.
  3. If you use the index or have found a reference to a given page and want to see that page, you can try typing the page number into the “Search Inside This Book” box. This won’t always give you the page you’re looking for, and sometimes you need to look through a longer list of places in the book where the same number occurs. But by searching for the page number or another keyword, you’ll often be able to turn up a page or section that you need even if it’s not directly linked in the table of contents or the index.
  4. If you already have a copy of the book, you can use the “Search Inside This Book” box to help you find that quotation you half remember but can’t seem to turn up again in your physical copy.
  5. You might find that Amazon allows you to preview different pages than Google Books does, or vice versa. So, can’t preview what you need with one, it might be worth searching the other.

Conclusion

In the end, the same caution applies to Amazon as we mentioned with Google Books. You always want to be sure you haven’t inadvertently misunderstood an argument simply because you’ve only read the portions of it that are available in an online preview.

That being said, Amazon’s previews can make it easier for you to access some parts of some of the books you need for your research.

A hammer isn’t a substitute for a screw driver, but that doesn’t mean you can only ever use a screw driver. Similarly, while neither Amazon’s nor Google’s previews substitute for having a fuller copy of an argument all together, they can be valuable in making certain kinds of research jobs easier than they would have been otherwise.

How have you used Amazon’s “Look inside” or other features for your research?

Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 4

The past few weeks, we’ve considered how to expand your research materials by using:

These online repositories like we discussed last week are great for getting access to public-domain titles. But what if you need something that is still under copyright?

"Books" signImage by César Viteri

Aside from purchasing the resource outright, one obvious way to access a title still under copyright is through a library, whether at your school, simply nearby, or via inter-library loan.

But there are also a couple good places online that you might also find helpful. This is particularly true if you need only a modest section of a particular book (e.g., a chapter). Here we’ll focus on just one of these places—Google Books.

Google Books

Google Books aims to be “the world’s most comprehensive index of full-text books.”

Public Domain

Before we talk about using Google Books with titles under copyright though, we should note that Google Books’s selection also includes numerous full-text titles for works that are in the public domain.

In these cases, you can download the books in EPUB, plain text, or—the probably most useful format—PDF. For instance, if you wanted to read William Sanday and Arthur Headlam’s International Critical Commentary volume on Romans (Scribner, 1899), you could search for and find the title on Google Books. Then, simply click the gear button in the upper right-hand portion of the window, and choose “Download PDF.”

Screenshot of Google Books showing how to download Sanday and Headlam's ICC commentary on Romans in PDF

Under Copyright

But like I already mentioned, Google Books can also be helpful for accessing titles still under copyright.

For such titles, Google Books provides three levels of access:

  • Preview: Titles with previews available allow you to search and view select pages in the book. You only get a selection because Google has to comply with copyright law and can only show you some of the book.
  • Snippet-view: Titles with “snippet” views allow you to search the book and view select portions of pages—i.e., the few lines of a given page immediately around a given search result.
  • No preview: Titles marked as not having a preview will give you only basic metadata about the title (e.g., author, publisher, publication date). This information can be helpful. But it also often contains errors or inaccuracies (e.g., wrong years, missing series information). So before you rely on Google Books metadata, you need to cross check it with the print title.

Of these, I’ve very rarely found snippet view helpful. But occasionally, it has been useful to be able to search a title that I’ve also gotten in print and find where to read more thoroughly (e.g., in the case of non- or poorly indexed volumes).

Where Google Books provides a preview of a book still under copyright, the service is more useful. Often, the table of contents is linked to the rest of the text so that you can skip to individual sections easily.

If this isn’t the case or if you’re feeling a bit geeky and want to jump to a particular page, click the link button in the toolbar. Then copy and paste the link provided into a new browser tab. The link should look something like
https://books.google.com/books?id=qEsn-q1qOu8C&pg=PA257#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Google Books link illustration

The portion of the link with the “PA257” indicates the page number of the link.

Simply change the number portion (e.g., 257) to go to a different page (e.g., 232). Of course, if Google hasn’t made available the page you choose, the new link won’t open that page.

Also, sometimes book links will have more than one section that looks like the “PA257” in the link above. This seems particularly to be the case when you’re previewing a text that has two volumes in one or some similar situation. In these cases, play around with both portions of the link until you find the one that adjusts the page number.

Lastly, from the left-hand menu, you can search for text within a given volume. This can be particularly helpful if you have a print copy of a book that you’ve read, but you can’t seem to find a particular statement or section that’s relevant to your current project.

Searching Google Books’ Database

As with Internet Archive, searching Google Books’s massive database for what you need can take some time and patience. This is particularly true with older texts or series.

For example, sometimes the series name will display in the search results but without clearly indicating the contents of the particular volume for that link. So, you may need to click through several links or try different searches to identify the volume that’s actually what you’re looking for.

Another feature that can be helpful is the “Related books” section on any given volume’s “About this book” page. This section shows results based on similar titles, authors, or other metadata.

Google Books "Related books" screenshot

There have been a number of times when I’ve tried every search I can think of to find a given volume only to see it then listed under the related books section of a closely related but different volume’s about page.

Conclusion

Especially if you’re using Google Books for accessing titles that are still under copyright, what you can get on Google Books is no substitute for the full text either in print or perhaps (if you need only a smaller section) electronically via inter-library loan. You always want to be sure you haven’t inadvertently misunderstood an argument simply because you’ve only read the portions of it available in Google Books (!).

Still, with this qualification in mind, Google Books can be an extremely helpful tool for getting access to a wide variety of research material—whether in the public domain or still under copyright.

What gems have you found in Google Books?

What other features of Google Books have you found useful?

Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 3

The past couple weeks, we’ve focused on expanding your research materials by using libraries. This might take the form of using libraries that are simply near you or where you might be able to use ILL. Or, if you’re at a school, you might be able to use that school’s library better, including its ebook collection.

As critical as libraries are, however, you shouldn’t limit your research to them. Instead, there are a number of helpful online resources you can use to gain access to key materials. In this post, we’ll discuss the first two.

Laptop on a desk with books and other materials

Internet Archive

Internet Archive is a non-profit organization that is “building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.”

You might be familiar with Internet Archive from its “wayback machine,” which periodically captures websites over the course of their development. It can be amusing to go back and look at early versions of sites for companies that now have a significant Internet presence (e.g., Apple, Google, Walmart).

But, Internet Archive also has an incredibly useful repository of scanned, public-domain books. Searching Internet Archive can sometimes be a bit unwieldy. The metadata can be a bit off. So, you do have to look at the scans themselves to confirm you’re getting what you’re looking for.

Even so, a few of the gems I’ve found there over the years include, in whole or in part:

Church History
The translation of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Alban Butler’s Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints
A Greek text for Justin Martyr’s Dialog with Trypho

Classics
E. M. Cope’s introduction to Aristotle’s Rhetoric
Benedict Niese’s edition of Josephus’s works
(Pseudo-)Cicero’s Rhetorica ad Herennium

Language
The 28th German edition of Wilhelm Gesenius’s Hebrew Grammar
The 8th edition of Henry Liddell, Robert Scott, and Henry Jones’s Greek lexicon
Marcus Jastrow’s Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature

New Testament
Hermann Strack and Paul Billerbeck’s Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch
John Lightfoot’s Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica

Textual Criticism
Frederick Field’s edition of Origen’s Hexapla
Pierre Sabatier’s edition of the Old Latin
A facsimile of Codex Sarravianus
Johannes Geffcken’s critical edition of the Sibylline Oracles
The larger Cambridge Septuagint
Alfred Rahlf’s volume on the Lucianic recension of Kings

Other
C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch’s Old Testament commentary
Edward Robinson’s Biblical Researches in Palestine
Theodor Zahn’s Romans commentary

True, some of these resources took some time looking to hunt up on Internet Archive. But, Internet Archive made getting access to them much simpler and faster than it would otherwise have been.

Books.logos.com

Similarly, books.logos.com has a growing collection of over 8,000 full-text resources.

Accessing these titles is free during the beta period, and you don’t need to have purchased a Logos base package to use books.logos.com.

But, users who have the desktop software installed can search books.logos.com directly from there via an “everything” search. You can then click through one of the pages shown with results to pick up there reading the full text on books.logos.com.

Desktop search of books.logos.com

Conclusion

In a 1524 letter about the importance of Christian schools, Martin Luther pressed the importance of biblical languages. A few of his comments are no less apt for the kind of research tools we’ve begun considering here:

O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor—yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf!1

Sure, it might take some culling through search results to find what you need. But by comparison to how searching like this has needed to be done in the past, tools like Internet Archive and books.logos.com can both make some parts of the research process much faster and some of the materials involved available much more broadly than they might otherwise be.


  1. Quoted in Gary Pratico and Miles Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, 119. 

Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 2

In the previous post, we began discussing how to expand your access to research materials as a biblical scholar.

We focused on two library-related tips, and this post offers two more.

Rows of books on shelves with hanging lightsImage by Janko Ferlič

Use Your School’s Library

If you’re already a student or faculty member, this suggestion might seem overly obvious. You’re likely familiar with your school’s library and, at least generally, its holdings.

As the saying goes though, sometimes “familiarity breeds contempt.” That’s not to say you don’t like your library. But you might not think to look there for a given resource because “of course, we wouldn’t have something like that.”

Still, you should check. You might be surprised by what you have access to either by searching the catalog or browsing the stacks.

This has happened to me more than once, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what we just happened to have.

For instance, in working on a recent project on the land promise to Abraham, I almost requested via ILL a chapter from W. D. Davies’s The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974). But thankfully I looked first in the catalog and happily found that it was actually already in Faulkner’s main library’s stacks.

Use Your School’s Ebook Collection

Similar to the prior point, be sure to search your school’s ebook collection.

Gone are the days when ebooks were plaintext files that lack page numbering and so prove barely usable for serious research.

Instead, your library may have purchased rights to provide you access to high quality scans of many technical titles that you might find useful. These will allow you to look at the same pages as you’d find in a print version of the book, except that you’re looking at the book on a screen rather than in your hands.

Of course, onscreen reading has its downsides. But, stocking ebooks is a good way for libraries with limited shelving space to add useful resources to their collections. And if it comes down to submitting another ILL request or using an ebook to which you have instant access, you might well find that you often prefer to use the ebook format, all things considered.

Your library’s ebook collection may also well surprise you with what it contains. For instance, for the same project I mentioned earlier, I needed to get a copy of Jacques T. A. G. M. van Ruiten, “Land and Covenant in Jubilees 14,” in The Land of Israel in Bible, History, and Theology: Studies in Honour of Ed Noort, ed. Jacques T. A. G. M. van Ruiten and J. Cornelis de Vos, VTSup 124 (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 259–76.

Besides me for this project, interest in this title might be quite low among current Faulkner library users, so for all its wonderful scholarship, it might not be the best use of limited shelving space. Even so, our library was able to provide access to it in an ebook format that proved entirely adequate for what I needed from that essay for the project I was working on.

Conclusion

So, for students and faculty, the moral of the story is: Your library is a gem for you—don’t let it be a hidden one. Even if you doubt there is anything helpful, still look.

If you’re new to your institution and still getting familiar with how to search all of your library’s holdings, ask one of the librarians for help to make sure you’re not overlooking a bank of helpful resources just because you need to do your searching or looking a bit differently. Doing so can save you valuable time and effort in the research process, as well as expand the range of materials you have readily at your disposal.

What research material have you been pleasantly surprised to find that your library has on its shelves?

What other kinds of library resources have you found helpful?

Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 1

Researchers need materials. For biblical scholars, this most often means books and journals.

We’re responsible for interacting with relevant literature largely irrespective of how easy it is to access. But, of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise some research savvy to access what you need more easily and cost effectively (because we didn’t get into biblical scholarship because it has the same upside potential as something like venture capital investing).

In this series, we’ll explore some different strategies you can employ to do just this.

Library shelves with books related to biblical studiesImage by Jonathan Simcoe

Theological Libraries Near You

Even if you’re not a student, if you live near a theological library, you can almost always simply walk in and use materials in that library.

To look for what might be near you, you can start with this Google Map prepared by the American Theological Library Association that shows all their participating libraries.

Of course, you might also find a non-ATLA-member library near you with useful material. To do so, you can start by searching Google Maps for “library.”

In addition to walking in and using materials at a library, you can often apply for checkout privileges at that library. You can certainly do this if a local public library just happens to have a decent selection of relevant material. But, you can also often do the same thing at theological libraries.

For instance, if you weren’t a Faulkner student but wanted to use Faulkner’s library, you could gain check out privileges for $25 per year. Though, in our case, a number of biblical studies-related resources are also held in the Kearley special collection, which doesn’t normally circulate. So, you’d just need to learn the particular policies and processes of whatever local library you might find helpful to use.

Interlibrary Loan

If you’re in an academic environment, you’re probably familiar with “interlibrary loan” (ILL). ILL is a service in which libraries cooperate to loan resources to each other’s patrons.

Even if you don’t have a theological library near you, though, your local public library should still be able to provide some amount of ILL service. In fact, you might be quite surprised at what you can borrow through the mail via ILL from a local public library—and the public librarians might be quite interested to see your ILL requests for what are, for their normal audience, some very obscure titles.

(Continually requesting Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has to get old. Surely a good request for Richard Bauckham’s The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses would help spice things up, right? Or, maybe a good scholarly French or German title?)

In any case, if you have access to ILL services at a theological library, you can certainly use those. But, don’t discount out of hand either what you can get access to via ILL at your local public library.

Conclusion

There’s much more to be said on this topic than can be covered in one post. But, hopefully, these couple nuggets are helpful, and we’ll definitely explore more next week.

Meanwhile, take a look around you for libraries (theological and otherwise) where you might be able to find material relevant to your particular interests in biblical studies. Go by, take a look, and talk to the staff about the possibilities.

When have you used a theological library other than one at a school where you were studying or on the faculty? What were you able to find?

What’s something you’ve been able to get over ILL that you never thought you would have been able to find?