Subject-specific databases

2018-09-10

in Geek stuff, Internet matters, PhD thesis, Writing

One of my main strategies for organizing information is to create databases for subjects of interest. I’m using the term in the broad Wikipedia sense of “an organized collection of data, stored and accessed electronically” here, and it includes everything from a single folder where PDF versions of all the references cited in a particular monograph of mine are stored to financial tracking spreadsheets, records of my weight, and sets of original RAW files for my photoshoots.

So far for my PhD research I have set up a few:

  • A spreadsheet of all accredited Canadian universities, with pertinent information about each divestment campaign I have identified
  • A master timeline for significant events in all campaigns, as well as events relevant to university divestment that happened in other institutions, like municipalities
  • A list of all scholarly work about university divestment campaigns, including which school(s) the authors looked at
  • A spreadsheet with titles and links to common document types at many campaigns, including detailed petitions like our ‘brief’, recommendations from university-appointed committees, and formal justification for university decisions
  • The consent database specified in my ethics protocol, which has also been useful for keeping tabs on people who I’m awaiting responses from
  • (Somewhat embarrassingly) A Google sheet where I manually tally how long each MS Word chapter draft is at midnight each day

For my earlier pipeline resistance project I had started putting together a link chart of relevant organizations and individuals, as well as a glossary and timeline.

I would love to have more formal training (and ideally coding ability) for working with more flexible kinds of databases than spreadsheets. That would be useful for debugging WordPress MySQL issues, but more importantly for more fundamental data manipulation and analysis. I haven’t really coded (aside from HTML and LaTeX) since long-passed days of tinkering with QBASIC and Pascal during the days of my youth in Vancouver. It seems like it would make a lot of sense to learn Python as a means of building and playing around with my own SQL databases…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Milan September 14, 2018 at 2:14 pm

The blog is also a subject specific database, since when new news related to a subject I’m tracking emerges the easiest way to catalog it is often to add a comment to one of my existing posts.

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