Doctoral Researchers Should Think Databases

Over the next week or so I plan to say a little bit about two of the best SBL presentations I saw this year. Here I wanted to mention one of them that was by Johan de Joode who is at the Catholic University of Leuven.  I  had the privilege of having an impromptu lunch with him after a session in which we both presented.  He is a wonderful person and a very talented young scholar.

The session we presented in was on metaphor theory, but Johan’s presentation was much more broadly applicable.  He demonstrated how he was using a database to organize his doctoral research and also to promote collaboration among researchers.

Having spent the last two years working for a software company, I have become more aware of how important or helpful it can be for researchers to think in terms of organizing the data for their work and/or the data resulting from their work into databases.  And, Johan’s post made me think that I should write a post to recommend this to anyone I can.

Of course, I’m not being entirely prescriptive with the title of this post since some projects would not lend themselves well to databases.  But, organizing research into databases makes the results of a project much more agile and potentially far reaching than the long-form argument style that one finds in books.

For example, I look back at my own research on Biblical Hebrew vocabulary learning and wish that I had the wherewithal to work in a database format.  As it stands, I worked in straight html at one time and created sets of ANKI cards later.  Now I realize that more than likely had my data been structured in a database at least much of the work in ANKI could have been automated from the database.  Beyond that, it could have been automated into other formats in the future.  Now, it might take a considerable number of hours to get the data into a more flexible format.

I still know very little about databases themselves, though I have begun taking some continuing ed courses in computer programming, but even a very rudimentary knowledge can be helpful.  For instance, if someone can determine how to precisely structure data from their work in a spreadsheet, so that it can be easily loaded into a database, this might go a long way in expanding the reach of their research.

If you interact below or on social media because you’re working on a research project, doctoral or otherwise, that you’d like to think about in this regard, chances are I may not be able to give pointers, but I can probably direct you to someone who can.