ASSIA: Applied Social Science Index & Abstracts – Reviewed 2002

Reviewed by Reviewed by Pauline D. Manaka, University Of California,
Irvine, August, 2002

Revised DRAFT submitted to the ANSS Bibliography Committee, August 2002

ASSIA: Applied Social Sciences Index & Abstracts, 1987-. Available
in print form, on the Web, on CD-ROM, and via Dialog. ASSIA was initially
published by Bowker-Sauer in print. In 1994 Bowker produced the CD-ROM
version and named it ASSIA-plus. Since 200 Cambridge Scientific Abstracts
(CSA) produces the ASSIA database web version, going back to 1987. A subset
of the database named ASSIA for Health is available via Silver Platter.

Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, the main supplier at:
Windsor Court, East Grinstead House, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19
1XA, United Kingdom.
Telephone: 1-800-843-7751 in North America;
1-301-961-6700 in the UK


Additional information on vendors includes:
Alison Knight East Grinstead, Windsor Court, East Grinstead House, East
Grinstead, West Sussex
RH19 1XA, UK
Tel: +44 1342 336139; Fax: +44 1342


Dialog Corporation, 11000 Regency Parkway, Suite 10, Cary, North Carolina,
Tel: 1-800-3-DIALOG (North America) 1-919-462-8600; Fax: 1-919-468-9890

ASSIA operates from a PC compatible platform (MS-DOS). The annual subscription,
$3,335.00 Or Call 1-888-BOWKER2 for price update
Supplier Contact Email:

The Web version of ASSIA under review is supplied by Cambridge
Scientific Abstracts.


ASSIA is a comprehensive bibliographic database whose content
addresses modern society and its problems. Applied social science literature
emphasizes practice, for example social services, law, public service
and the caring professions. ASSIA mainly indexes journal literature
that describes the applications of models and theories in these subjects
to understand and analyze social issues. It is significant because of
its interdisciplinary nature and the ability to keep abreast of concepts,
trends, and methodologies. It is a smaller database than Sociological
Abstracts, and its specific focus is to meet the information needs of
those who serve people and the application of theory to practice.

To illustrate the significance of the ASSIA database, this review
is a comparative examination of its multidisciplinary content and traits
in relation to other CSA social science databases, namely, Sociological
, Social Service Abstracts and Psychological Abstracts,
1984-. The ASSIA database “brings together practical social
issues from a wide range of sources underpinned by the core materials
from sociology and psychology.” It indexes core journals in Sociology
and related disciplines. In scope, its coverage is similar to that of
the Social Service Abstracts, with a stronger international coverage,
and emphasis on British and European articles.

Size, Currency, Scope and Coverage

ASSIA began in 1987 in paper format. The electronic version started
in 1994 as a CD-ROM followed immediately after by the Web. The CSA version
of ASSIA goes back to 1987. There are monthly updates, with approximately
1700 records added per update. As Of October 2001, it had over 279,890
records, from 680 journals in 16 different countries, divided as follows:

North America = 45%; United Kingdom = 40%; the rest of the world = 15%.

Additions to the database are timely. It covers English language only
journals, with selective inclusion of conference papers, not their overviews.
At least 80% journals and newspapers are abstracted cover-to-cover and
20% selectively. The ASSIA database excludes book reviews entirely
while Sociological Abstracts addresses this. Articles with less
than one page are excluded. This means news items and regular features;
emphasis is placed on research publications. ASSIA‘s coverage is
on international aspects with particular attention paid to British and
European articles intended for social science professionals.

A search conducted on “ethnic gangs” in the four related databases,
produced the following results:

Sociological Abstracts 10
Social Service Abstracts 7
PsycInfo (1984-) 7

An examination of the above output illustrates, among other things, the
different interpretations of the concept “ethnic” by the databases
and perhaps even the UK and US emphases.

The ASSIA database covers the following subjects: anxiety disorders,
communication, criminology, cultural anthropology, education, ethnic studies,
family, geriatrics, health, housing, marriage, nursing, unemployment,
immigration, industrial relations, child abuse, legal issues, national
health service reforms, political science, psychology, race relations,
religion, sociology, social work, substance abuse, urban planning and
women’s studies. ASSIA also focuses on certain aspects of law, business,
national politics, and in particular, local government.

User Guidance

The Cambridge version of ASSIA provides help menus, which are
generic to all CSA databases, as well as basic guidelines for ASSIA
users. The help menus cover information and examples that explain the
database structure and searching techniques. CSA uses the symbol ”
i ” to describe specific help as needed.

Search Guide

Cambridge ASSIA provides Quick and Advanced search features. All
documents contain short informative abstracts, full bibliographic citations,
and index terms that facilitate both general and specific subject searches.
There are browse indexes, namely authors, subject, source, publication,
year, subject terms and ISSN. Browseability is a useful feature because
it allows one to see how a term and its variations. Users can search single
words and phrases, or terms may be combined using Boolean connectors to
search for relatedness, or to narrow and elaborate a search. The browsable
index feature is accessible with the “Quick Search” and “Advanced
search” features.

ASSIA has a thesaurus, an alphabetical listing of the entire controlled
subject descriptors used in the subject field. Access to the online thesaurus
and the ability to browse easily, is one of its helpful features. The
thesaurus uses British and American English, which in some cases may be


The current Serials Source List is available and is searchable. It is
reviewed and frequently updated, and is accessible at:
The serial list is searchable using the IS = field code followed by the
standard ISSN format. For example, the search IS = 0965-2140 retrieved
1406 articles from the journal, Addiction.

Electronic Record Structure, Retrieval, and Search Results

Records of the databases contain up to 13 searchable field codes:

AB= Abstract
AN= Accession Number
AU= Author
DE= Descriptors
FE= Features (reference tables)
IS= ISSN (International Standard Serials Number)
LA= Language
PY= Publication Year
SH= Shelf mark (British Library)
SO= Source
TI= Title
UD= Update

CSA ASSIA allows easy use of the various search fields through
the “Quick” and “Advanced” search features. A drop-down
menu box makes limiting by each of the various fields possible. In Advance
mode, a click on the drop down menu brings up the list of search fields.
The search builder, also known as the query builder, has the function
to aid search expansion and direct entry of the search.

The searcher can perform the browse function in both Quick and Advance
search modes. The browse feature is used to find authors names entered
with variant initials or forenames, as well as subjects with some variations
in terminology or sources that have changed names. For example, the user
types a few letters of the term you wish to browse in the search box and
click on browse button. A list of terms beginning word typed will display.
Click on the term of choice to view records. If the user wishes to search
by field code, enter the search term or terms in the search builder and
choose the appropriate field code from the drop list of codes. ASSIA allows
the display of most of its searchable fields.

A search conducted using the “browse journal name index” on,
Crime and Delinquency, yielded results from three of the databases
that indexed it:

Social Services Abstracts 5
Sociological Abstracts 20
PsycInfo (1984-) 0

It is easy to use and access the source list. This helps makes it possible
to search peripheral journal titles where applicable. The journal name
index is easy to access from the source list which allows the user to
limit to more popular as well as obscure journal titles. The CSA feature
to search or browse multiple social sciences databases at the same time
enhances the value of the ASSIA database.

The thesaurus is available online. To use it, the user copies and pastes
the term in the search box, after browsing. The field name will change
from free text to a subject search when the thesaurus term appears. The
“+”sign next to term when using the thesaurus, displays other
terms that have a broader, narrower or related meaning. For example, a
search on the thesaurus descriptors “singlehood” or “singleness”
was conducted instead of the keyword “single parent*” The results
are as follows:

Social Services Abstracts 1
Sociological Abstracts 20
PsycInfo (1984-) 30

Terms are unique to the thesaurus in each database. An examination of
the results illustrates the output from ASSIA was smaller because
it does not index books, dissertations and conference papers. The ASSIA
database was unique, with few duplicate articles across databases, and
the abstracts were used consistently for duplicate articles. The ASSIA
database normally stated if the abstracts were amended and the bibliographic
record indicates if there are tables and references.

ASSIA provides the ability to mark the relevant hits by indicating
a check next to the item number. The user can e-mail, print or download
to a disk the marked items. To e-mail search results, the user must fill
out an extra box with a fake e-mail address from; otherwise, it will not
work. The ASSIA database supports short and long bibliographic
format display and printing; there are no full-text citations. By linking
to local library catalogs, a capability provided by CSA, the user retrieves
full-text journal articles. Linking also makes it possible to get the
Library holdings.

Database Enhancements

The Indexing of Web Resources

Cambridge Scientific Abstracts has greatly improved the quality of Web
sites indexed by the database. A search conducted on the keyword, “AIDS
prevention” yields 12 Web Resources in ASSIA. A review of
the web sites cited indicated excellent practical resources on the prevention
and cure of the AIDS virus worldwide.

Full text Journal Linking

CSA has made improvements whereby local library subscription to serial
holdings provides access to full-text journals. An example is the California
Digital Library (CDL) UC-elinks. However, the need still exists to broaden
the access of most indexed journals. This would provide an extra attraction
to market ASSIA as one of the few databases whose content is relatively
recent. For instance, in the case of the journal Gender and Society,
several UC libraries have Internet access starting in 1998. The one article
retrieved from the search on “ethnic gangs,” in ASSIA were from
volume 9, issue #4, August 1995. Retrospective full text coverage could
improve the significance of the database especially in the United States.

Potential Use of Bibliographic Managers

At present ASSIA does not provide use of the CSA software found
It is not one of the CSA databases using the Bibliographic Manager version
9 to format citations in EndNote as well as Procite on the cambridge.cfg.
ASSIA however, has great potential for this.


ASSIA is “neat and efficient,” and was cited as one
of the “best in databases and CD-ROMS” for the year 2001. In
comparison with Social Service Abstracts, the social science scope
of ASSIA has a broader range on practice research, and a higher
quality of indexing and abstracting that is comparable with that of Sociological
. Yet, ASSIA maintains its unique capabilities. However,
a further improvement is welcome overall if CSA help menus cease to be
generic in nature and the help screens refer specially to ASSIA.


La Guardia, C. “Best Reference Sources 2001: Databases and CD-ROMS”
Library Journal April 15 2002.

“Cambridge Information Group Acquires RR Bowker.” News &
, CSA.

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