Research Forum: The scholar's workstation
College & research libraries news
President, Personal Bibliographic Software, Inc. Associate Professor, University of M ichigan T he idea of a scholar's workstation has emerged from the development o f new and powerful m icro computers capable of handling a num ber of the tasks involved in the research process. Obviously research in nuclear engineering varies greatly from th at in Elizabethan dram a, but nevertheless many of th e activities involved are the same. T h e m ain medium of com m unication in all fields is still the
... esearch paper or monograph. A scholar's workstation must have all the tools necessary to develop ideas, carry out th e inform a tion processing aspects o f th e research and produce the p ap er. T he m etaphor of a workstation or work bench is really rather apt, since a set of specially de signed tools are arrayed on the researcher's desk. These tools m ust function smoothly together, and the system must allow for extensive com m unica tion w ith colleagues th at is such an essential p art of the research enterprise. From creation to publication T h e aspect of research com m on to all disciplines is the creation of the w ritten work. Currently, the creation o f the paper or m onograph is usually done by a num ber of individuals ranging from the au th o rs ), the editor, the typesetter and the printer. W ith the development of new hardw are and soft w are the entire process can now be under the con trol of the author. T h e processing of words into fin ished typeset m anuscripts benefits greatly from autom ation. Critics have argued th at the advent of the word processor has turned creative scholars into typists. S in ce a u to m atio n can accom plish much o f the routine work, the transfer of control to the author does not carry w ith it all the drudgery usually associated w ith the production of printed works. T he recent progress in typesetting software has been dram atic. In the past, typesetting softw are and hardw are systems w ere specialized for th e publishing industry and prohibitively expensive for individual researchers. Now, however, these sys tems are m igrating to m icrocom puters and are be com ing generally available. A software package called T eX has been developed for M S-D O S Per sonal Computers and it allows for comprehensive typesetting and page composition. Output can be routed to a simple dot m atrix printer for draft work and to a high quality laser p rin ter for finished work. T he system also interfaces with professional ty p esettin g m ach in es fo r p u b lic a tio n q u a lity results. The research process At the risk of oversimplifying the process of re search, the process and the resulting m anuscript generally follow the outline of: 1) statem ent of the problem ; 2) th e literature survey; 3) analysis of data; 4) statem ent of results; and 5) conclusion. Such a structure, w ith variations, can be used in al most all fields. T h e tools needed for each part are different and will be tailored to m eet the needs of specific disciplines. Fo r exam ple, the word proces sor used for com parative literature must be able to handle non-English character sets, w hile th at used in physics must have the symbols of m athem atics. C ertain tools are com m on to all disciplines, for ex am ple, bibliographic organizers and typesetting systems.