Book Review: Global Research without Leaving Your Desk | SLA Europe

Global Research without Leaving Your Desk: Travelling the world with your mouse as a companion
Jane Macoustra
Chandos Publishing, Oxford, 2010

Sara Batts presents a review of fellow SLA Europe Board member Jane Macoustra’s latest book.

This is definitely one for serious researchers.  Jane assumes you are competent at finding your way around the Internet. Books about the Internet always feel a little odd, because there’s a suspicion they’ll already be out of date. This is acknowledged, though, and there are regular updates on the blog at http://globalresearcher.wordpress.com/ – the demise of the Cuil search engine is one example.

Sometimes it’s good to have a break from screen time and as there are plenty of screen shots from the services mentioned, the book is very readable away from a computer. You do not need to constantly type URLs in to see what they look like. If you were, however, you may have thought that some of the URLS in the book are a bit long, and could have done with shortening via Tiny URL or Bit.ly. I’d also have loved to have seen a linked list of websites on Jane’s blog, maybe, but I can understand why not: it would be almost giving the book away for free not to mention that keeping the list updated would be a full-time job in itself. I found the lists of websites and services mentioned on a chapter-by-chapter basis to be helpful.

Global Research without Leaving Your Desk is written in a friendly style, and feels like Jane’s guiding you personally through these resources, offering both her experience along the way and a healthy scepticism about quality of some online resources. Jane’s experience also shows in the narrative around coverage of Asian resources and there’s a short section on ‘fun stuff.’

It’s not just a list of resources, though. Some of the issues around research that Jane included for discussion are

  • The invisible/ deep web
  • Fee vs free: when time is money, is it better to use a paid service or search for a free resource?
  • Ethical and professional obligations
  • Fraud and privacy

There were a few  hints and tips hidden amongst descriptions of services which one could easily miss –for example, there’s an explanation of Brady bonds that’s not indexed so you’d never know it was there.

The book includes a section on knowing your customer – great for people needing to take a sceptical line when taking on new clients and equally useful hints on researching biographies as we’re sometimes asked to do.

Overall, this is an easy to read work, with signposts and guidelines alongside discussion and narrative. Easy to read does not mean simple, though, with a number of complex resources and issues considered. It could be better with URLs and a more comprehensive index, but otherwise, it’s definitely going to be a research companion in the future.