The questions we get in Perkins Research Services range from the fatuous to the far-fetched to the fascinating. This is the second of a series on our most interesting research questions, and how we go about answering them. (Some details have been changed to protect our users’ privacy.)

Sometimes the questions we get are terse yet timely, like this one: “Articles about engineering and manufacturing of basketball shoes.” This has obvious and immediate import in the month running up to March Madness, so Perkins librarian Brittany, ever on her toes, got right to work on it one Sunday evening.

the sneaker book Did you know there’s a “Sneaker Book?”

In fact, there are at least two, the newer one subtitled “50 years of sport shoe design” and available to Duke users upon request from the library at NC State. (The Triangle Research Libraries are team players, even during basketball season.) Brittany started by recommending these books for “Steve” to get some background before delving into the technical questions.

The full-court press followed, with more specific questions that were not answered in the books:

  • How is a basketball shoe made? What science goes into the design?
  • How do factories make basketball shoes? What machines are used? What is the process in detail?

For these answers Brittany turned to our databases, first constructing a search strategy in ProQuest: ‘athletic shoe’ in Subject AND (manufacture OR design) in Subject

She also recommended the Engineering Village database, which turned up a promising article, “A structural mechanics model for sports shoes: the heel strike” from the Sports Engineering journal. Who knew there was such a specifically targeted journal? Not this Social Sciences generalist.

We aim for both the slam dunk and the buzzer-beater when we answer research questions—zeroing in on exactly the information you need, and just in time. Brittany turned in a good performance in this round.

Moving forward, I wonder if March Madness led to this other question we received about the same time: “I want to find articles about how would drunk people walk. Like would they stumble to their dominant side?” Our answer, in part, is to be careful around those bonfires, folks. LET’S GO, DUKE!

Post by Catherine Shreve, Librarian for Public Policy & Political Science

 

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