How to investigate the history of intelligence testing, and not be fooled by key words

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Prompt: How do you find scholarly books on the history of intelligence testing? Imagine that you decide to write a research essay on the history of intelligence testing, particularly how it evolved in U.S. education during the twentieth century. Describe your search strategy for finding books on this topic at Trinity Library, and cite five of the most relevant titles. (Hint: the goal of this question is to distinguish between keyword and subject-term searches.)

This past week I was able to meet with Trinity librarian Erin Valentino. I have learned in my time here that it would be considered foolish not to meet with a librarian before beginning research in the library. Her assistance in navigating the vast collection of media within the library is something that was essential to me completing my source detective question.

To begin, she asked me what kind of media I was looking for. I replied “books” as the question states. She told me had I answered articles, we would look under scholarly sites such as JSTOR or simply the Trinity College Article Database. Because I did answer books however, she directed me to WorldCat, which searches amongst all types of media. She told me we will be utilizing the “advanced search” feature.

I began by entering “iq test history” in the keyword field.

I recieved 1,637 search results. I was told that because I had searched by keyword, any publication containing the texts: “iq”, “test”, and “history” will be generated. I searched through the first 15 until I was able to select a book that I thought would be essential in a report. It was titled “IQ: a smart history of a failed idea”.

On the bottom of the page was the call number, which is how one would find it on Level 3. But to the right is a field titled “More like this”. This is used to suggest books of similar topics to the inquirer. It also lists the subjects these books are categorized under within the system. One subject I found on the right side of the page jumped out at me: “Intelligence Tests–history.”

Subjects> Intelligence Tests -- history.

I brought my cursor over the text and clicked, refined the search for only books, and was brought to a more concise, only 214 items long. This is when I felt I had arrived at where I was supposed to be looking for information, for all the books shared the subject of “intelligence tests– history” rather than simply containing a word or three. Keywords can help you start, but once you have figured out which direction you want your research to head, subject searching is much more helpful.

*I was able to further specify the subject into “intelligence tests–history–20th Century United States”, in an attempt to address the initial question better, but I found that some books were left out of the search that would have been useful, such as The Big Test by Nicholas Lemann.

At the end of my research session, I organized my results in order of relevance and found that the 5 most relevant books on the subject of the history intelligence tests were:

The mismeasure of man
by Stephen Jay Gould
The intelligence men, makers of the IQ controversy
by Raymond E Fancher
The big test : the secret history of the American meritocracy
by Nicholas Lemann
IQ : a smart history of a failed idea
by Stephen Murdoch
Measuring minds : Henry Herbert Goddard and the origins of American intelligence testing
by Leila Zenderland
The 5 most relevant books on the subject of the history of intelligence testing.

A special thanks to Erin Valentino for her assistance during my research.

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I chose this topic because I’m interested to see how Margaret Haley's vision of teachers unions in 1904 compare and contrast with the ideas of unionists today, because many of her concerns seem to still resonate. It’s amazing that its veracity transcends a time-span of well over 100 years.

One thought on “How to investigate the history of intelligence testing, and not be fooled by key words”

  1. This post offers a richly detailed (and wonderfully illustrated) example of how a keyword search helped you to get started, but the subject terms and related entries pointed to a more precise answer. Thanks also for acknowledging the valuable assistance provided by our librarians.

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