Literature review

Stock check

I should probably start by introducing myself – I’m Joe Williams, and I’m a PhD student.  I started my research about three months ago, at the University of Kent. My PhD is part of a larger project funded by the Leverhulme Trust, run by Drs Luke Lavan and Ellen Swift. This project is The Visualisation of the Late Antique City, and my contribution will be study of everyday urban artefact assemblages. If this project interests you, keep an eye on its website – at the moment all you’ll see is an “under construction” notice, but I’m gradually putting pages together in breaks from research so there should be more on there in the coming weeks.

Unfortunately for anyone who chooses to read this, the Day of Archaeology happens to correspond with my own “Day of Filing”, so there won’t be any news of fascinating ritual deposits, or any nice pictures (unless anyone really wants to look at a photo of a messy desk, in which case I’ll take one and send it to them). Earlier in the week I was helping out with organising and putting together an inventory of all the equipment stored in university buildings that belongs to the Late Antique Ostia field project, now in its fourth season; today I’m working at home doing a similar thing with the journal articles and other resources that I have on my computer (and as paper copies in folders, laptop bag, rucksacks, left in the printer and anywhere else you care to look). The main task of these first few months has been the literature review, so the hulking mass of things to read constantly threatens to overwhelm me! I’ve built up an extensive bibliography, organised thematically, but now I need to split most of it into two in order to keep works that present data and those that analyse data in separate parts of the essay – which will involve hundreds of quick checks, hence the filing.

The Institute of Classical Studies Library and the internet have been invaluable resources. So far it’s been a case of reading hundreds of abstracts, skim-reading tens of articles, and reading a select few articles in full, in order to have an overview of the relevant scholarship available. A lot of this has already been covered in the bibliographic essays included in Late Antique Archaeology volumes 3.2 and 5, so most of the work I’ve been looking at has been published since 2007. It’s incredible how much of this there is -if I could give one piece of advice to anyone about to start a research degree in September, it would be to pick a logical filing system as early as possible and stick to it! Endnote helps, but it has a few quirks so I find it helpful to arrange everything in such a way that I can find it without having to think up search terms that may or may not lead me to the right thing. Ideally this would be something I do on a daily basis, but of course it isn’t, so I need days like this once in a while to recover articles from the hiding places that seemed perfectly logical when I put them there. Speaking of which, I must get back to doing that.