I have spent the morning mulling over my first assignment which is to create a poster that evaluates a reference resource. So far, I am doing well in that I have chosen the resource I have to evaluate and submitted my choice to the wiki on the Blackboard site before this Thursday. I am going to look at the Oxford Companion to Music which is now available online and is part of Oxford Reference Online. After looking through the assessment criteria and the various documents on what is expected in the evaluation I started playing around in the resource. It’s fairly user friendly. What’s really good is that even though you are searching in the Music Companion you can connect to all the other reference resources (shall we call them e-books? I think we shall) in the Oxford database (am I using these terms correctly? I’m not sure). Perhaps Oxford Online Collection would be better?
What does this mean? Well I decided to start at the very beginning (in what they teach music students in the Western tradition anyway) and searched for “Gregorian chant”. From there I was directed to the entry on “Plainchant” (which I had the option of printing, or emailing to myself). I emailed it to myself and it arrived in my inbox within minutes. Then, however, there is a groovy little search function called “cross reference”. This means that in the plainchant entry I can highlight any words and click on cross reference, whereby I am directed to entries anywhere in the entire Oxford Online Collection that will explain this word or term. I chose to highlight “Emperor Constantine” and found myself in a different dictionary/encyclopedia altogether, reading about Constantine. This is pretty useful as it enables users to not only find the quick facts they might be looking for, but it also gives them the option of putting their new found knowledge of plainchant into some social and historical context with more explanations. My plainchant entry also offered me summary of the entry..so I could quickly navigate to the relevant section if I wanted to, rather than reading the whole thing; a list of connected terms to do with plainchant and interestingly, the keywords for the entries adjacent to plainchant in the Companion. “Whoops, I meant to search for pizzicato but accidentally typed in plainchant”..that kind of thing. I can see how this would be useful in some instances. More useful though is the pattern searching which looks for words close to the keyword you type in, just in case you have spelled it incorrectly etc. I didn’t have that problem with plainchant.
There’s also a collection wide thing called a “Timeline Search”. The Timeline function allows you to choose which area or discipline you would like to check out for important events in its historical timeline. I went to Timeline, clicked on Performing Arts and then Music as my sub-category. Then I decided to test out Oxford Reference Online and searched for 1913. Sure enough, as any good undergrad music student knows there was the Stravinsky, Nijinsky, Rite of Spring premiere, riot as the notable event in that year. Good work OUP.
I also discovered the Oxford Online Collection has a very detailed Help section where basic and advanced search methods are explained with examples. The Browse function was useful with it’s A-Z and subheadings for searches underneath each letter. Even better was the “Links for this book” where the user is directed to a page which gives many links to other useful reference sources that would be companion items to the companion. If you get my drift.
Anyway, I copy and pasted bits and pieces of useful information about the resource into a word document to look at later. Now I just have to distill all this into an evaluative poster.
I shall think on this some more.