What happened was, for that Sex and T.E. Lawrence piece, I had to engage in an old-fashioned paper chase; books, scribbles, large work surface. I’d say “No search engines involved” but that wouldn’t be true.
Few of the primary sources on Lawrence are available online. This may explain why the level of scholarship among the Wikipedia editors in question was unsatisfactory. Fortunately, I happen to have read more or less all of them, and own a fair proportion.
I had some recourse to the books’ indices; it was no great effort to look up “sex” and “homosexuality” and “Bruce” and “Dera’a”. But I also did some page-turning looking for things stuck in the back of my brain from having read this stuff. For example (pardon the inside baseball), none of the sex-related index entries were for the Farraj-and-Daud story (so sad, and so finely written). I dug it up by plowing through the wonderful chapter summaries Lawrence supplied for the Seven Pillars Subscribers’ Edition front matter, reproduced in the 1935 First Edition, and was delighted to find that he had indexed it under “Sex” even if all the subsequent students hadn’t.
Since these books refer to each other and all refer back to Seven Pillars, you end up having to look, in close succession, at the index, the primary text, and the notes to the text, which requires a half-dozen active bookmarks (tall thin pieces of paper, remember those?) in three or four books at once.
When I lost my patience at the ignorant ham-handed editing of that Wikipedia subsection, I hadn’t realized I was letting myself in for three solid evenings of what used to be, pre-search-engine, a primary occupation of serious scholars of, well, anything.
But you know, the Internet helped too. There were a few key phrases I remembered but which had come unhooked from their sources in the ramshackle extrusions of my overcrowded memory. Google could solve the problem of hooking the phrase to the book-title, and then I was off to the scholarly races. And the Net led me to Yagitani’s magnificently-obsessive An 'S.A.' Mystery.
Also, I discovered that the text of Seven Pillars is available at Project Gutenberg Australia. So I had my computer do some brute-force scanning to reduce the chances of I or any of my fellow-scholars having missed anything important.
With time, more and more of these source texts will migrate online, and it seems obvious (can this be controversial?) that the quality of scholarship will thereby improve. It does trouble me a little that the next time anyone is dissatisfied with what they’re reading about T.E. Lawrence’s sexuality, the nearest search engine will lead them quickly to my work, and they may be satisfied with that, and never cast their eyes over any of these aged beautiful pages.