Finding and Using Handbooks & Manuals (in Art Education):

| September 11, 2012

This is a short and handy guide to locating handbooks and research manuals in EDUCAT, which is the online catalog containing the bibliographic records of TC Gottesman Libraries monograph collection. How would you locate a handbook in your field of inquiry, assuming your instructor doesn’t simply present you with a bibliography? Well, I’m so glad you asked!

But first: what is a handbook, and why would you want to consult one?  Handbook definitions do not come easily, but here is a hint found on the back of Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education. “…Assembled by an internationally known group of art educators, this thirty-six chapter handbook provides an overview of the remarkable progress that has characterized this field in recent decades.”  The chapters detail the current thinking on art education, broken down into topics like history, policy, instruction, assessment, and competing perspectives. What makes a handbook different from an encyclopedia, a companion, or a dictionary in art education is the breadth and scope of the chapters, as well as their length. A handbook identifies the major issues in a given field and provides an in-depth account of the current thinking on those issues. As the book’s jacket summarizes, “this handbook provides those inside and (more importantly) outside the field an invaluable snapshot of both its boundaries and its current content.”

Assuming this definition convinces you, let’s think about ways to find handbooks in our catalog. I’m going to use Art Education as a topic of exploration.  You can locate a decent selection simply by using keywords in a basic search, such as “handbook of research in art education.” And indeed, when I type in those exact words into a keyword search in EDUCAT, the very first book that comes up is our exemplary title, Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education. But scrolling down I find odder choices, like the Handbook of Research on Literacy in Technology, and the Handbook of Educational Psychology. Surely there is a way to get more subject-specific results.

Using subject terms, we can identify our field of research and that we’re looking for handbooks.  Here is a list of useful subject terms in art education:

Art–Study and teaching

Note that Art Education is NOT a subject term. Use the above term instead. If I enter in these terms I find 351 results, most of which are useful, but not necessarily handbooks.  If I open up an advanced search using the above string in the subject field and add  “handbook” as a keyword, I get far better results.

Here are some other subject terms of use:

Artists as teachers
Art in Education
[field]–Handbooks, manuals, etc
(so for instance here use Art–Study and teaching–Handbooks, manuals, etc)

Another handy tip:

When you find a book that is perfect for you, click over from the book detail tab to the “find similar items tab. This is where you’ll find a list of subject terms assigned to this book. Each of these are linked, giving you instant access to other titles described the same way. Or write them down and do a new advanced search combining a few of the best terms you found.

PS: These tips are transferable to any field of research!