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Research Guide for new Postgraduates

The following Guide has been compiled by senior members and graduate students of the Faculty to help new graduates find their feet as quickly as possible. It is of its very nature informal and incomplete and since it will be updated each year, graduate students are invited to pass on to the Secretary of the department any further nuggets of wisdom that they feel would be useful, so that they may be incorporated into the next edition of the Guide. Supervisors will obviously have individual advice and guidance to give, and new graduate students will develop their own techniques and discover new resources as they go along. What follows is meant to ease the research path in the initial stages.

An ABC of Graduate Studies

  • Abstracts of dissertations. UL reference REF 856. 
  • Bibliographies on authors. Invaluable when searching for secondary material on an author or subject. For authors check UL reference number Ref. 859, followed by the first three letters of the author's name. Thus, Cervantes = Ref. 859 CER.
  • Bibliographies on topics. They do exist. If you haven't got an author or title, ask the UL staff (or ask around). Nowadays, however, you are probably better using on-line resources.
  • Bibliography. Start one of these from DAY ONE, on computer or cards or both. You can give yourself a good start by attending the MML Library's information session entitled 'Introduction to bibliographic research skills' at the beginning of the academic year and repeated weekly or fortnightly depending on time of year. When making a bibliography, make sure you put down the information as the MHRA Style Book (see below) suggests; it will save a lot of time and effort later on when you are producing and checking references and bibliographies both for written work along the way and at the final stage of writing up. It is a very good idea to include the library class mark with each entry, as this too will save time and effort later on if you wish to check or reread something. [N.B. The UL has a microfiche version of the Biblioteca Nacional (Madrid) catalogue (although this is now best consulted on the internet) and microfiche versions of Spanish books in print and Latin-American books in print are available in Accessions.] The best bibliographical database for MML students (for searching for articles in journals, and essays in books) is the MLA International Bibliography (SPIRS)
  • Bids (Bath Information and Data Services). Gives access to over 7000 journals and is a powerful database. Ring Stephen Dale in the Scientific Periodicals Library on 334741 for information and membership. 
  • British Film Institute The BFI in London is the national centre for research resources in cinema. It contains important materials for Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American cinema, including the trade journal Cineinforme. Its SIFT database is particularly useful.
  • British Library The BL's on-line catalogue can be accessed here or in the UL IT room.
  • Computing. The Graduate computing centre is on the top floor of the Raised Faculty Building, along the corridor from the Graduate Studies Office. It is spacious and comfortable and contains a large number of up-to-date machines linked to the Public Workstation Facility (PWF).
  • Concordances These are in the UL Reading Room and save a lot of hard work searching through texts.
  • Conferences
  • Gowns Can be hired cheaply at the Graduate Union opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum.
  • Inter-library loans An indispensable service that operates though the UL. There is a charge and books can take several weeks to come through.
  • Internet It is possible to search the catalogues of thousands of libraries world-wide: http://www.libdex.com/ There are also a number of useful databases for literature searches:  OCLC FirstSearch (requires a password, for which contact smd15@cus) and  Ingenta both allow you search for books and order articles online, and BIDS allows access to full text electronic journals and some citation databases. It is also possible to search the MLA International Bibliography. There is also an Online Public Access Catalogue, providing unified access to the online catalogues of some of the largest university research libraries in the UK and Ireland. 
  • Jobs Yes, you will want one eventually, and it might even be in academia! The website http://jobs.ac.uk/ provides a very useful service, keep an eye on College Research Fellowships advertised in The Reporter (https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/), and subscribe to the listings of the Times Higher Education Supplement (http://www.thes.co.uk/).
  • Lectures. All lectures are open to you, but where numbers are small it is a courtesy to identify yourself to the lecturer. Special classes are often run for non-specialists: consult the Reporter's Lecture List (published at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term and available in Heffers bookshops and in College Libraries) for details.
  • Libraries
  • UL The University Library (which is one of the four copyright libraries in the country) runs introductory tours at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. Books published since 1978 are contained in the on-line catalogue: computers are concentrated in the Catalogue Room but available too throughout the Library [N.B. The cross-referencing system is not as complete as one might wish]. If a book does not yet appear in the catalogue this does not necessarily mean that it is not in the Library, so ask. Books published before 1978 are listed in the Old Catalogue in the green-backed volumes which line the walls of the Catalogue Room. Journals are listed on the on-line catalogue and in volumes deposited in the Catalogue Room and elsewhere. The UL is not a browsable library in the sense that all the books in one subject are shelved together, so that you can go and see what you can find. But there are field and period sections and, since readers have access to the stacks, browsing around the specific book you have gone to find can be very productive. To check whether a book is available, to recall a book, or to see how many you yourself have out, consult the designated computer on the left of the borrowing desk outside the Catalogue Room (you can also do this by e-mail — see the information leaflet provided in the library). The UL has a wide range of experts in different subjects areas on its staff — if you need help, don't hesitate to ask at the desk in the Reading Room.
  • British Library This has huge holdings. The BL's on-line catalogue can be accessed in the UL IT room or at http://blpc.bl.uk/; the Reading Room has a printed catalogue. Books have to be ordered by post or by phone several days in advance; bringing back spare order slips when you are there is a good idea.
  • <!-- -->Other University libraries Reading and borrowing rights can be arranged for most Faculty libraries. The MML Faculty Library contains specialist material on a wide range of subjects. The UL will usually be more comprehensive for graduate purposes, but depending on your research topic, the MML library may have just what you need. The Faculy Librarian runs an information session entitled 'Introduction to bibliographic research skills' throughout the academic year. <!-- -->The catalogue of the huge National Union Library of Congress (USA) is available on at http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/.<!-- -->The catalogue of the Spanish Biblioteca Nacional can be consulted on at http://www.bne.es/
  • Mailing lists A mailing list is an e-mail forum for receiving information about topics associated with your broad research area. You subscribe by sending a message to an automated list-server, and then you will receive approximately three or four e-mail messages per day (depending on how active the list is) with, for example, news of conferences in your subject area, new publications, requests for information from fellow researchers, etc., and you will of course be able to post to the list yourself should you so wish to. You should seriously consider subscribing to one: the largest UK academic list-server is The National Academic Mailing List Service, and full details are available at http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/. Within the Service there is a list called  Iberia (although this appears to have a very small number of messages at the time of writing), another small one called  Pilas (Post-graduates In Latin American Studies) and a very active list called Latam-info, very much recommended for all students and professionals involved in Latin American studies. There are a number of other lists relating to period studies — use the search facility on the Mailbase homepage. You may also be interested in consulting Usenet Newsgroups relating to the country or countries you are interested in — there are very active ones on Spain, and almost all Latin American countries (e.g., "soc.culture.colombia", "soc.culture.spain", "soc.culture.brazil"). You can access these most easily through the Pine e-mail programme on Hermes or CUS, or through most modern e-mail programmes such as Outlook Express and Netscape Messenger (you will have to set the newsgroup server in your e-mail programme to "nntp-serv.cam.ac.uk"). See also under Internet.
  • MHRA style book Available in Heffers and essential to invest in (about £4) when you start your research, because it sets out all the conventions regarding text, bibliographies, references and (foot)notes which you are expected to use in writing dissertations (and which are widely used in academic publications). Not adopting these conventions from the start will involve you in a great deal of tedious and time-consuming fiddling later on.
  • Microfilm room On the south side of the UL, second floor.
  • MLA The Modern Language Association of America publishes an important cultural journal (PMLA), and runs a huge conference every year which is the main job market for Modern Languages lectureships in the United States. If you are nearing the end of a PhD or Research Fellowship, you should subscribe to the MLA's Job Information List. See the MLA website on http://www.mla.org/.
  • MLA International database 
  • Money Your funding body may well pay for necessary travel associated with your work: read their handbook carefully. There may be College funds available to help with e.g., books, fourth-year housing and maintenance; Colleges also administer Access Funds for students who need financial help. See also under Reporter. The Gibson Spanish Scholarship is awarded each year. Annual income is sufficient fully to fund one student. Smaller awards to more than one applicant (preferably those ineligible for BA awards) may also be made. Full regulations can be found in the Statutes and Ordinances of the University.
  • National Union Catalogue (Ref. 853.40). The final reference in the search for publications. If it isn't there, it isn't published. It can easily and conveniently be searched on http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/.
  • Networking Go whenever possible to relevant conferences, give papers when your work is far enough advanced to do so (the British Academy makes grants to graduate students for this purpose), meet students and academics in neighbouring fields and in other institutions. Frequent the UL tea room for this purpose, and attend the Hispanic Research Seminar and Modern Language Society meetings whenever you can. There is now an annual Postgraduate Hispanic Conference run on a national basis (the Department circulates notices about this); this conference and the HRS are good arenas in which to present your work and receive some feed-back, and to get used to facing audiences. 
  • Notes By all means develop your own method of taking notes, cross referencing them, etc., but it is essential to be methodical, thorough and consistent. Take meticulous note of the book title, edition used, volume number and/or series details if applicable, author's exact name as printed on the book, editor's exact name if applicable, place and date of publication, publisher, together with page references for every note taken. It may seem tedious and superfluous at the time, but if you don't do it, you will certainly live to regret it.
  • Photocopying In the case of borrowed books, this is best done in Faculty, College, or Graduate Union. The UL has a copying service, and self-service copiers (cheaper). Rare or fragile books are copied, if at all, by UL staff. Don't forget that wherever you photocopy, copyright legislation restricts the amount from any one work that you are allowed to copy.
  • Printing Your College almost certainly provides computers and a printer in a computer room. Cheap use of computers, photocopying and printing is available in the Graduate Union opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum. always make extra back-ups of all your work.
  • Reference books Of all kinds, in the UL Reading Room. They include the Guide to Libraries in Western Europe, Ref. 45.22 (addresses, telephone numbers, opening hours, outline contents) and The World Guide to Libraries which likewise contains addresses, telephone numbers and contents, Ref. 45.7. It is well worth familiarising yourself with the contents of the Reading Room by browsing round: the section on folklore and symbolism, for example, is well worth knowing about.
  • Reporter The University's official publication (https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/), published weekly in term time and containing all official announcements and information; it has an unofficial part at the end which contains details of society meetings, public lectures, and advertisements for academic posts, including College Research Fellowships. Number 2, the Lecture List, is a special edition containing details of all lectures available during the year; it may be bought in Heffers, but is also available in College libraries and/or MCRs. Back numbers are available in Colleges and in the UL Reading Room. N.B. A special November issue lists grants and awards that you might be eligible to apply for.
  • Research Apart from the MHRA Style Book, there are other publications which deal with the nature, forms and uses of research. Check the online catalogue in the UL or ask in Heffers. Other guides to writing dissertations are available in the UL Reading Room, Ref. 856.1, 2, 3.
  • Supervisors Supervision is a partnership which depends on input from you as well as from your supervisor. But the nature of all such partnerships depends on the individuals involved, and it is a good idea to establish at the beginning how frequently you will normally meet your supervisor, what will be expected of you, and what sort of support you think you will find most helpful. Anxieties about any aspect of your work or life are worth expressing before the problem becomes intractable: supervisor, Head of Department, Secretary of the degree Committee, College tutor or mentor between them can offer a wide range of advice, information and support.
  • Theses. These are kept in the Manuscripts Room at the UL and can be looked at on request. Varied as they are, they give a good idea of what you are aiming at, particularly those written in recent years. Take a pencil with you - pens are not allowed in the Manuscript Room. 
  • Videos The MML Faculty has a video room and a growing collection of Spanish and Latin-American videos, films and documentaries.