The documentary theses and books

Support of books

All the theses (documentary, field, experimental, etc.) need the support of books. Even other modalities of degree projects, such as feasible, special or creative projects and internships, will need a substantial bibliographic support. Although, nowadays, information is presented in different formats (written, audiovisual and digital), books are the first source of information that is sought when a thesis must be made.

Why does that happen? Perhaps, because the publishing industry is one of the oldest that, in addition, has known how to adapt to modern changes. Likewise, every creator wishes to make his work known. We do not intend to delve into business issues, which are far from our objectives, but what is certain is that there are a lot of university careers whose main objective is the study of books, from other books. Among them the best known are literature, philosophy, criticism or history of art, theology, logic, history and, obviously, librarianship.

Either because the foundation of the career is the study of books, for example literature, or because the themes of the profession have been collected over time in books. In any case, the documentary theses are studies dedicated to the sources of information that are considered testimony of something important, patrimonial and invaluable. And with this we mention all the formats in which the document in question was originally created, the most common are the books.

We will focus on the documentary theses that are made about books and use other documentary texts for the analysis. However, the recommendations given also work for other types of documents such as art and music.

First we must clarify that in these theses a distinction is made of the types of sources:

The primary sources: they are the basis of the research problem, they will be discussed, because in a few words they are the subject of the study. For example, the work of the writer Rómulo Gallegos, specifically his novels Doña Bárbara and Canaima. Evidently the sources of first rank will be the books mentioned.

Secondary sources: are those that speak of the first. In the previous case, the critical works on Gallegos, are also considered in this group the theoretical texts, whose concepts will be applied to the primary books.

Now, what should be read first? This will depend on the level of knowledge you have of the subject of work and if you have already read, in advance, the primary sources. If the thesis student is familiar with the work that he is going to investigate from the perspective as he conducts the analysis. If this is the case, you can decide to advance directly with the secondary sources to deepen immediately.

If, on the contrary, it is the first time that the researcher is going to approach the subject, the most recommendable thing is to proceed to read some secondary sources of the most general, to build a first panoramic view of the problem. We might think that it is illogical for someone to decide to work on an issue that is completely unknown, but remember that documentary theses are often qualitative. Therefore, it is very normal that the thesis is made from a first intuition that will be fine-tuned as the study progresses.

There is also the situation of partial knowledge of the subject, for example, when the author is known, but there is no prior knowledge of the theory that he wishes to apply to his work. In conclusion, in all circumstances it is better to start by reading general documents that make the primary sources more understandable. Of course, each student will give their own rhythm to the readings, will be able to alternate texts and return two or three times on it for new information.

The documentary theses offer greater flexibility to the methodological process of the investigation, but that should not be confused with disorder. The thesis that does not make notes of their readings and cataloging of information, end up lost in a mountain of documents.

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