Anthropological Literature on Disc – Reviewed 1995

Reviewed by: Ellen D. Sutton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, March 1995

Anthropological Literature on Disc, 1984-1993. (ISBN 0-8161-1656-3). G.K. Hall-Macmillan, 866 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022; orders are now handled through Simon & Schuster at (800)223-2336. For order information, you may also contact the G.K. Hall representative for this product at (212)702-6789. The cost of the initial purchase of this product, which represents citations appearing in Anthropological Literature from 1984 through 1992, is $995.00, and the cost of annual updates will be $695.00 (an update has not yet been issued in CD-ROM format). There is no discount for institutions which purchase the print index, and there is no additional charge for networking the product. The index is compiled and edited at the Tozzer Library (formerly the Peabody Museum Library) of Harvard University, on whose collection it is based. Questions about the Anthropological Literature database, including this CD-ROM version, may be directed to Julia A. Hendon, Editor, at Tozzer (617)495-2292; e-mail: JHENDON@HUSC4.HARVARD.EDU.


The May 1994 issue of ANSS Currents (Vol. 9, no. 1, p 6.) featured a description of Anthropological Literature on Disc by Julia Hendon (“Electronic Access to Anthropological Literature“) and an earlier issue (Vol. 7, no. 1, May 1992, pp. 5-7) carried a detailed review of the print version of Anthropological Literature by David Carpenter. While this article will contain certain pertinent information from those two former articles, it will focus primarily on the search software and record structure of the CD-ROM product.

The initial disc of Anthropological Literature on Disc (AL on Disc), which represents the content of Volumes 6(1984)-14(1992) of the print version of Anthropological Literature, will be updated annually. The print index is updated quarterly, as is the online version of the database available to subscribers to the Research Libraries Group’s CitaDel service. The cost of a subscription of the AL database through the CitaDel service varies by size of institution and number of products to which the institution subscribes.

This first issue of the CD-ROM product contains over 83,000 bibliographic records for articles from journals, edited monographs, and edited volumes in monographic series. Annual updates are expected to contain approximately 8,000 records from an estimated 450 journals and other publications (this estimate is based on a count of recent annual lists of periodicals indexed, which appear in the final issue of AL each year, and does not accurately describe the total number of journal titles covered regularly but not annually). The search software is user-friendly and menu-driven, and allows for the searching of specific fields, or for keyword searching across all fields.

User Instruction:

Thesaurus: There is no single, comprehensive thesaurus for terms employed in AL on Disc. According to Julia Hendon, subject headings employed from 1984-1986 (Vols. 6-8) were “based on a system developed by the Peabody Museum Library.” The print list of these headings, Tozzer Library Index to Anthropological Subject Headings (2nd rev. ed., Boston: G.K. Hall, 1981), contains information on subject hierarchy. Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH) have been used beginning with Volume 9 (1987). However, as David Carpenter noted, AL “creates additional subject terms…as supplemental headings.” Therefore, no single source of controlled vocabulary is available for consultation; the multi-volume LCSH is not adequate for locating the exact subject headings assigned, and does not correspond to those employed in Volumes 6-8 at all. The subject index of a print issue of AL is a good indicator of viable subject headings currently in use, but 1)only those headings employed in that particular issue will appear in that list and 2)not all libraries will have both the print and the CD-ROM versions of the index.

Printed User Guides: G.K. Hall’s CD Searcher 2.0, an 18-page booklet with instructions on set-up and use of all G.K. Hall CD-ROM products, accompanies AL on Disc. There is no printed documentation specific to AL on Disc.

User Assistance:

Online: Instruction on individual screens is very straightforward, and help can be obtained through pressing the F1 key at any time. An opening screen invites the user to enter terms, to browse the indexes or to press A for “More on Anthropological Literature.” Typing A leads to a series of brief but clear help “chapters,” which have information on hardware requirements, basic searching and displaying, searching and browsing indexes, using search tags (field tags), printing, sorting, and saving results to a disk. The final “chapter” is on “speed keys,” which are function keys for various operations.

Telephone: G.K. Hall’s CD Searcher 2.0 booklet lists G.K. Hall Technical Support at (800) 592-8057. Users may also call the Help Desk of Tozzer Library’s AL operation at (617) 232-0412.

Scope and Coverage:

AL on Disc is one of the most comprehensive indexes available for anthropological and archaeological literature. The initial disc represents Vols. 6-14 (1984-1992) of the print version of the index. The CD-ROM product will receive annual updates; the quarterly print issues of the index can serve as updates to the annual CD-ROM issues. AL on Disc contains 83,000 bibliographic citations to articles from journals, edited monographs, and edited volumes in monographic series from the collection of the Tozzer Library. Until 1992 (with Vol. 3, no. 4) Tozzer did not index reviews (for books, films, etc.), so the CD-ROM disc does not contain such citations. The Tozzer collection reflects a broad definition of anthropology as an interdisciplinary field. Citations to literature on biological and linguistic anthropology and archaeology, frequently absent from social science indexes covering cultural anthropology, are included in AL. Journals based primarily in another discipline, such as the American Journal of Sociology, tend not to be part of Tozzer’s collection, and are therefore absent in AL. In recent years, AL has extracted articles from approximately 450 journals each year (this figure represents a decrease from previous years). Coverage of particular journals is sometimes uneven: in a given year, a whole volume of a journal may not receive indexing, while several years of another journal may be indexed in that same year. This is explained, at least in part, by the fact that issues may be received on an irregular basis by Tozzer. A much more serious problem is that issues are sometimes missed. For example, issues of the Annual Review of Anthropology for 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1991 are not indexed in this database.

Geographic coverage is international in scope, and Julia Hendon has estimated that “almost half of the articles indexed are not in English.”

Document Availability:

Photocopies of any article listed in AL may be obtained by contacting the interlibrary loan service of Tozzer Library.

Record Structure and Retrieval Software:

Record structure: Searchable fields include author, article title, source publication (containing standard information such as place of publication, publisher, ISSN or ISBN, volume and issue numbers, and date of publication), subject, notes (which denote presence of summaries of the content in other languages), author added entries (which are listed in the author index and retrieved in a standard author search), and “Anyword”. There is no separate date field. Years (e.g., 1990) can be entered as keywords, but such a keyword search will retrieve items that are about that time period as well as published during that time period. Also, there is no field that denotes language of publication.

Retrieval software: There are two basic searching modes: direct command, using prescribed syntax, and browse mode. In the browse mode, one can select one of the eight indexes, which correspond to the searchable fields listed above. Keyword searching is possible in either mode; in the browse mode, one can do single-word or bound-phrase keyword searching within the “Anyword” index. The opening menu leads one into the direct command mode, offering information on the browse mode as one of the searching “tips.” From any of the indexes, a term can be selected to appear at the search prompt, where a search can be initiated by pressing the enter key. The author index is especially useful for searching, because it displays variant forms of the author names in this database. Another informative index is the source index, where one can see a list of all publications indexed (this type of index is absent in the software of many bibliographic database systems, such as SilverPlatter’s SPIRS software, which offers one basic index for browsing and searching).

The direct command mode is the most precise, efficient way to search a given author, journal title, or known, exact subject heading. The three standard Boolean operators, AND, OR, and NOT may be used. Truncation is effected with an asterisk, and a question mark within a word allows for any letter in that space (e.g., wom?n retrieves either woman or women). The syntax and punctuation in the direct command mode are inflexible, but context-sensitive help screens can be summoned at any point in the search.

While the search system is straightforward and flexible, inexplicable errors occasionally occur. For example, in one instance, a search statement in direct command mode retrieved a different number of citations when entered at different times (the search statements were entered the same day on the same equipment).

Subject searching:

Articles have from two to ten subject headings, which “typically focus on ethnic group, place, time period, and topic” (Julia Hendon). These headings can be searched as character strings (e.g., su=”medical anthropology–kenya”). Because the controlled vocabulary changed in 1987, it is most productive to search for subjects by keyword, although lists of the base subject headings are available for consultation (see “Thesaurus” section, above). A keyword search will explore all content fields, such as title, subject heading, and source publication fields, but cannot be limited to a single field. (The fact that a keyword search automatically searches the source publication field does reduce efficiency to some extent, but that is preferable to searching a precise subject heading that was employed for only part of the time the database covers.)

Summary of Positive Aspects:

With Anthropological Literature on Disc, Tozzer and G.K. Hall have expanded Tozzer’s already vast contribution to our access to documentation in anthropology. AL on Disc is the first index in CD-ROM format devoted to anthropology, and represents a sizeable portion of one of the world’s finest collections of anthropological literature. The CD-ROM allows automated searching of almost a decade of serial publications. The search software is user-friendly and very flexible. Keyword searching facilitates the retrieval of relevant citations. The availability of a browsable subject index certainly goes a long way to reducing problems caused by this split subject system.

Recommendations for Improvement:

In terms of the content of Anthropological Literature on Disc, it would be helpful if the journals were indexed more quickly and on a more regular basis. Another improvement would be quarterly, rather than annual, updates of the CD-ROM product. Several improvements could be made to the record structure and search software. The addition of discrete language and publication date fields in the record structure would increase precision of retrieval. The addition of abstracts would provide more useful text that could be searched by keyword. The opening menu of the search software could be modified slightly to make it more helpful. The two basic search modes (entering searches at the search prompt or selecting terms in the browsable indexes) are not clearly listed. In the instruction “To browse a listing, use F3 Indexes,” the meaning of “listing” is ambiguous. While help in command searching is available in one of the help chapters, a one-sheet guide to using search tags would be useful. A very brief statement on the opening screen about the scope of the literature covered would be useful. Also, the information in the help chapter entitled “About This Disk” could be expanded to include the average number of journals and edited works indexed each year and a brief description of the Tozzer collection on which this database is based, in order that users could more accurately comprehend the scope of this database.

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