Loving Research Even When It Sometimes Doesn’t Love You Back

One of 133 PDFs captured and save from Le Mauricien for future analysis.
One of 133 PDFs captured and save from Le Mauricien for future analysis.

Research is really exciting.

From my undergrad, master’s, and (now) PhD programs I’ve had the privilege to dabble in several kinds of research methods: statistical analysis, content analysis, experimental design, ethnographic work, focus groups and key informant interviews, oral history, archival research, survey implementation and analysis, program evaluation, build environment assessments, and etc.

Research projects have always been my favorite part of being in higher education. I find great satisfaction in all stages of the process from an idea’s inception to writing the report or final product, and everything in between.

To be clear, however, it’s not always easy or inspirational work. I’ve found that project logistics or using certain research tools is most frequently what challenges my romantic sensibilities toward research.

This weekend I started doing basic archival work on the Internet, assembling an initial collection of articles written about my biographical subject, Elodie Li Yuk Lo, and her assent to the Olympics.

I stumbled upon an archival goldmine—Lemauricien.com.

On Le Mauricien’s website, there are over 130 articles (many brief, about

My excitement quickly faded upon realizing two things:

  • My French is rusty—and Le Mauricien is a French publication.
  • Zotero doesn’t support this website.

I spent most of one morning PDFing 133 articles that contain “Elodie Li Yuk Lo.” I spent the better half of an afternoon manually filling in citation information that Zotero couldn’t capture (which is almost everything). And then I made the HUGE mistake of assuming that Zotero would automatically back up my work because I have a Firefox-hard drive syncing mechanism set up.

Then my laptop froze and shut down. All my work had disappeared upon rebooting.

I felt deeply betrayed by technology though I know this was largely a human error. I was pushing the limits of my laptop’s capacity, I didn’t check how to properly back up my work in Zotero, and I had way too many windows open and programs running.

I know there are monumentally worse things that could go wrong with archival research. Also, I’m entirely grateful that Lemauricien.com even has articles archived, searchable, and freely accessible on the Internet.

This experience serves as a good reminder that shit sometimes happens and in the grand spectrum of this project, loosing half a day’s worth of work on the computer isn’t that significant of a setback. Plus, I didn’t need to leave my home to access articles from Mauritius, I have PDF versions saved of all them (on multiple drives), and now I know how to properly back up my work on Zotero (which is potentially saving me from a much greater software catastrophe sometime down the line).

Do you have any research disaster stories, solutions, or suggestions?

2 thoughts on “Loving Research Even When It Sometimes Doesn’t Love You Back

  1. I’m very interested in this issue. I just ceoelctld 28GB of TIFFs from the archives. Right now it is organized only by the directory structure. I will be loading converted PDFs into Zotero as I cite documents, but how do I manage ALL the data? My preference would be to not have to learn another database, but if there were sufficient benefits

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