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2002 articles 1985 articles

'The grammar of research': some implications of machine-readable bibliography

R. C. Alston

Abstract

RESEARCH into the history of man's culture and his institutions has alvi'ays been conducted with procedures which have a basic grammar. Upon that basic grammar scholarship has developed, since Poliziano, ever more complex routines as the raw materials for research have proliferated. The provision of these raw materials has been, since the Renaissance at any rate, one of the prime functions of historical and enumerative bibliography. Oddly enough, the basic grammar has not often been formalized. I suspect that this is due to the fact that we are more often than not required to exercise autodidactic skills in learning it. And we have learned how to develop the special skills needed to deal with the documents of the past (printed and manuscript) through imitation of examples furnished by previous failures and successes.

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