Serendip-o-no?!: My Trials and Triumphs with Serendip-o-matic

Just recently, I was directed to the website Serendip-o-matic which uses words, key phrases or big sections of your own text to pull primary resources and more great links for your research from a number of large databases.  Thinking I would see what kind of primary sources it could find me for my research on the Soviet Union during World War II, I plugged in a part of a book review I wrote last year on Ivan’s War by Catherine Merridale.  Then I waited patiently as the site gathered information from the text I had inserted and made some magic!

As the page loaded with all the resources the site could pull, I could see that a great deal of sifting was required from me.  The site pulled a lot of irrelevant information and a lot of very similar photographs.  I can see why too!  It separated many important words like Soviet, Union and Red, Army.  In this sense, Serendip-o-matic kind of missed the target.  Additionally, many of the photos proved fairly invaluable as they were attached to very little relevant information and source material that could link where they were originally from (making it hard for me to know whether they were actually real at all!)

However, I did find some pretty cool things in the end once the task of sifting was done.  One in particular that I found after clicking through some photos was a verbatim record of the Forty Fifth Meeting (closed) discussing the causes of the Hungarian Revolution.  I hadn’t come across this before in any of my school projects and it made going to the site worth it in the end.  For those of you considering using the site, I recommend it…if you have the time.  I don’t suggest using it as a huge support for your essay research or as a jumping off point.  In no way did it gather the most important information about what I was searching (in fact absolutely nothing about the actual book that I wrote about came up).  Rather, I would use it for finding a few neat add-on pieces for your essay research if you have the time!  I’m sure I could waste all day looking through something like this as it is interesting, just know that it is also very time consuming.

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