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I then looked up the archive they cited in their footnote, along with the manuscript collection (if I’d been even smarter, I would have included a short parenthetical remark stating why I was choosing to look at a particular collection, but I didn’t).By the time I was ready to set out on research I had a whole list of collections to examine.
I can even pull index cards out of the stack and place them side by side in front of me—the page numbering makes it easy to replace them once I’m done.I ended up using index cards, and it worked for me. The research started (albeit superficially) with my comprehensive exams.As I read the books on my list, I transcribed the passages I found where historians referenced food, cooking, or eating.I should say that this method does not produce a beautiful first draft.To be honest, it produces a pretty mediocre piece of writing.As an undergrad, I could print out my fifteen or so pages of primary source quotes to write a 10-to-12-page research paper.That method wasn’t going to work for the dissertation.Flash cards are one of the classic study tools, and for good reason – they promote studying through active recall, which is one of the practices through which our brains learn most effectively. well, I don’t want to say they use them the effective when they’re used correctly.For example, when I was learning Japanese, I made extensive use of flashcards for studying kanji. You’re probably studying a subject right now that would benefit from flash card study as well, so it’d be useful to learn the best practices for making and studying those flash cards.As I transcribed, if I came across a quote that immediately gave me something to say, I’d make a note to myself using all caps so that I could spot it easily when skimming a document.I should say that sometimes these notes were useful, and sometimes they were completely useless; at various points during the write-up stage I found myself vehemently crossing out my capitalized notes.