Getting Students Started on ECCO


Our SUNY experiment using ECCO (and, in other courses, NCCO) has begun.  The initial difficulty was getting students to use ECCO.  To that end, I designed the introductory exercise listed below, which resulted in thoughtful papers that often used proximity and wildcard searches.  Best of all, not only do students seem more comfortable using ECCO after completing this exercise, they also are more attuned to Radcliffe’s craft.

The assignment is designed for an undergraduate class on the Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novel.

I would love to hear about other successful exercises or assignments using ECCO, NCCO, or Burney, especially exercises asking students to study historical contexts.

Word Searching in ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collections Online)

Due:                  Monday, 7 October, in class.

Length:            1 page, typed and double-spaced

  1. Go to the Feinberg Library home page
  2. Click on “Find Articles”
  3. Click on “Databases by Subject”
  4. Click on “English/Literature”
  5. Click on “Eighteenth-Century Collections Online”
  6. Do a title search for “Romance of the Forest” with “1792” as the date [it was published in 1791, but the earliest edition ECCO has is the 2nd edition, published in 1792].
  7. Note that each of its three volumes comes up as a different book; each volume will need to be searched for the word you select.
  8. Select a word that seems important to the novel: “forest,” “romance,” “labyrinth,” “asylum,” “tears,” “door,” “hidden,” “fear,” “beauty,”
    “prayer,” “road,” “convent,” “reason,” “rational,” “imagination,” and so forth.
  9. Do a word search for every occurrence of that word in each volume.  Remember that words with “s” might need false searches: “case,” for example, requires a search for “cafe.”  Consider synonyms.  Consider alternate spellings of words.
  10. When necessary, look up the eighteenth-century meaning of words in the Oxford English Dictionary, also available on the Feinberg Library English Department web site.
  11. Write a brief (1 page) account of the role of that word in Radcliffe’s narrative, in her construction of character, in her construction of tone, or in other key aspects of her artistry.

Searching Guidelines

Truncated searches:

*            A search for “poet*” searches for words with “poet” as the root: “poet,” “poetic,” “poetess,” “poetical,” “poets,” etc.

?            A search for “wom?n” calls up “women” and “woman”

!            A search for “nun!” calls up “nun,” “nuns,” “nunn,” “nune”

Proximity searches:

A search for “ladies n6 asylum” calls up texts with “ladies” and “asylum” within 6 words of one another.

A search for “ladies w6 asylum” calls up texts with “ladies” appearing within 6 words before “asylum”

15 Responses to “Getting Students Started on ECCO”

  1. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks so much, Anna, for the update on the incorporation of ECCO into relevant courses at SUNY–and specifically the way this incorporation is unfolding in your courses. As your experience has shown, students need to receive specific guidance when first exposed to this source. I especially like the exercise you have designed to achieve this. That you also ask students to consult the OED should help reinforce the attention to craft and language use that this exercise fosters.


  2. Anna Battigelli Says:

    Thanks, Eleanor. A word search seemed a logical first step. Most students wrote more than the required one page. All of them provided insightful close readings. I’m trying to build ECCO skills step by step and am now considering how best to move to sources outside a given text. I will be reviewing the many suggestions posted here and on Long 18th.


  3. Giles Bergel Says:

    Anna, how do you recommend that students cite ECCO? ECCO’s URLs are so cumbersome that I usually recommend supplying an ECCO ID after giving the print citation.

    Here’s an exercise I’ve ran. I’ve asked students to look up “Gulliver’s Travels” on Google, Google Books, Amazon, ECCO, ESTC and their institutional catalogue. It’s designed of course to encourage them to be aware of textual multiplicity and to distinguish between sources.


    • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

      ECCO has a citation prepared that students often use, but I prefer that they use a print citation and the ECCO ID.

      I like your exercise, Giles, and will use it in my book history survey.


    • Anna Battigelli Says:

      Giles, I agree with your and Eleanor’s practice: have students supply the print citation followed by the ECCO ID. This encourages students identify the edition of the printed text they are viewing digitally while also providing a clear trackback to the digital facsimile.


    • Anna Battigelli Says:

      Giles, I like the exercise you suggest and see the benefit of assigning it. I will incorporate a version of it into the class. Thanks so much!


  4. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    For my book history survey last week, I asked students to examine select texts in EEBO to chart broad changes in physical appearance and conventions during the first 100 years or so of printing. This task complemented the reading. Before having them work in the database, I demonstrated the search conventions and then distributed packets of select titles and sample pages. Students worked in small groups to identify features and descriptions covered in the reading (e.g., colophon, incipit, use of illustrations, development of imprint) and devise some general conclusions.

    Nest week will be using ECCO to examine authorship issues during the long 18th century.


  5. Lisa Maruca Says:

    It’s very helpful to see these assignments. I worry that if we don’t use ECCO enough at my institution, it will be taken away (not that that is the only or most important reason for having students use it!). For those of you who have done these assignments already, were you pleased with the results? Were there any unexpected stumbling blocks?

    I’m also interested in ECCO and other database assignments for graduate courses, if you have suggestions.


    • Anna Battigelli Says:

      Our college keeps track of usage, so I understand your concern.

      I was impressed by how a simple word search assignment made students more observant of a novel’s formal structure. I also liked the way students obtained ownership of their interpretation by providing empirical evidence for the significance of a word. I distributed the assignment with skepticism about student response and was pleasantly surprised with their engagement.


    • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

      Somehow I just lost my lengthy reply before I had a chance to post (so this will be briefer).

      My university also keeps track of usage–the library does so for all our databases. Our heavy usage of ECCO and Burney has resulted in our acquiring additional databases that we’ve requested.

      I have had success using ECCO and Burney in both undergraduate and graduate courses. I detail my earlier experiences with them in a brief article, “Exploring Context and Canonicity:Lessons from the ECCO and EEBO Databases” and available on this emob page. The more experience I’ve gained via working with students on ECCO and Burney databases, the more pleased I’ve become in what they do with these tools. (I’ve become better at training them to search and navigate their contents and anticipating their needs).

      This past spring I assigned a brief ECCO/Burney paper in my graduate course on the 18ht-century novel. Five of the eighteen students developed final projects that expanded on this early short paper, and nine others used sources from one or both of these databases in their final seminar papers.


      • Anna Battigelli Says:

        Eleanor’s article is packed with great paper assignment suggestions, including assignments for papers on book history and on history of the novel. She also reminds us to remind students that texts in ECCO and EEBO are not all classics. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the appendices to that article are great.

        I like the idea of using short assignments to build skills used in a longer paper, something both Dave and Eleanor have emphasized.


      • Lisa Maruca Says:

        I do know that article–in fact I cited it in a recent article I wrote! But thanks for the reminder, and especially the link; information overload has turned my brain into a sieve. 🙂


  6. Anna Battigelli Says:

    Lisa: Can you provide the reference for your article?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: