Reviewed by Rui Wang, Central Michigan University, firstname.lastname@example.org, reviewed January 2006 and submitted September 2006.
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GenderWatch (GW) was originally launched in the summer of 1996 as a CD-ROM product called Women ‘R. SoftLine, an information technology company, was prompted to create Women ‘R at the suggestion of the Collection Development Committee of the ACRL’s Women’s Studies Section. In the summer of 1998 the name Women ‘R was changed to GenderWatch to expand the scope, coverage and appeal of the database by having the name fall in line with that of SoftLine’s other products, Ethnic NewsWatch, Alt-HealthWatch, and now Alt-PressWatch. After ProQuest acquired SoftLine in 2001, GW became ProQuest’s product along with Ethnic NewsWatch (ENW) and Alt-Press Watch. The three databases together are marketed as ProQuest’s “Diversity Suite.”
GW is a full-text database (with the exception of Haworth Press titles). Drawing its content from non- mainstream publications, the database explores both female and male perspectives on issues relating to family, parenting, divorce, health, gender equity in the workplace, careers, economics, politics, domestic violence and sexual abuse, feminism, masculinity, religion and spirituality, and sexual orientation. Its main focus is on gender studies, women’s studies, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) studies.
Scope, Coverage, and Currency
GW is a repository of an important perspective on the evolution of the women’s movement and thechanges in gender roles and understandings covering the last 30 years. The majority of publications are archival material dating back to 1970. GW is updated monthly, and as of July 2005, contained over 110,269 articles from more than 208 publications, ranging from scholarly analysis to popular opinion. These publications include academic, grey, and popular literature and support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) studies, family studies, gender studies, and women’s studies on wide-ranging topics, such as sexuality, religion, societal roles, feminism, eating disorders, fatherhood, day care, and the workplace with an interdisciplinary approach from the both male and female perspectives.
The reviewer compared the content coverage between GW and Sociological Abstracts, published by Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA), in January of 2006, by conducting the following searches on selected topics:
The dramatic differences in the results between the two databases confirm GW’s focus on gender roles with both genders’ perspectives from non- mainstream publications, such as Advocate, Divorce Magazine, Practice About Men as Fathers, Sister Namibia, Gay and Lesbian Review, etc. As Gail M. Golderman and Bruce Connolly (2004) summarized, GenderWatch, the full text of “an elusive body of literature” from “hard-to-come-by material,” serves academic and public libraries on gender studies and diverse populations (p. 28).
GW’s collection includes more than 200 titles of scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, regional publications, books, booklets and pamphlets, conference proceedings, and reports of government and non-governmental organization. According to ProQuest, GW content includes 29% magazines, 28% journals, 21% newsletters, 10% books, 7% reports, 3% newspapers, and 1% onference papers. Most of the publications on the title list are full text, except the Haworth Press’s 16 titles, which offer only abstracts. Eighty nine of these titles have ceased publication and the remainder are current.
The GW homepage provides a summary of the collection’s content, highlights “What’s New” in the database, and gives access to the database’s subject headings (thesaurus). Thus, the homepage provides easy access to information about the content organization. The Publications Search page provides the titles list. Each publication title is hyperlinked to brief information about it, and an individual search page for that publication. Users can quickly glance over the information for an individual publication and search its content exclusively if they wish.
GenderWatch (GW) is searchable in many different languages. ProQuest offers 14 interface languages:
- Chinese (Simplified)
- Chinese (Traditional)
Subscribers can set up a custom login link to access a specific language, as well as use the language selection dropdown box available in the interface. Searching and indexing remain in English, so a user typing in Chinese search terms will not find these terms indexed.
The interface languages can function not only on the search pages, but also on the “Document Review” page. This means that article translation is done at the article level. This translation is not done by humans, and is limited to 7,500 words or less. The following twelve languages can be selected:
- Chinese (Traditional)
- Chinese (Simplified)
The database user guides are also available in Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), German, English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian, Russian, Polish, and Norwegian. With the feature of interface languages, the “Help” screen also switches to whatever language is selected. Unlike auto-translated articles retrieved at the “Document Review” page, the user guides are translated well by humans.
Indexing and Subject Access
Before ProQuest assumed responsibility for GW, the SoftLine subject headings were used. After ProQuest acquired Diversity Suite, the SoftLine subject headings were mapped to the ProQuest controlled vocabulary. Some terms are no longer treated as subjects, but have been switched to either geography or company/organization index terms. A table on the GW home page displays how SoftLine subjects are mapped into the corresponding ProQuest vocabulary. For example:
There are five search interface choices: “Basic,” “Advanced,” “Topics,” “Publications,” and “My Research.” Unlike the convention of keyword/subject search in most major databases, the “Topics” search is a supplementary approach to keyword and subject searching. On the “Topics” search page, users can choose to look up topics by entering keywords. The results offers a browsing list of suggested topics, from which the user can view all documents that fall under that topic, or choose to narrow the topic further. A second choice— “Look Up Topics A-Z”— leads to a browsing list of topics that are either subject terms, companies/organizations, people, or locations. Moreover, “Suggested Topics” appears on every search page, so that users can switch their search directions quickly, if the suggested topic more closely describes their own research subject. The default “Advanced” search is executed in the records’ “Citations and document text.” Users can also limit combination searches by ten other fields, such as “Document title,” “Document type,” or “Publication title.” An unusual field is “Location,” which searches geographic place by country, state, or metropolitan area, and allows easy searching of international content. More rows of search boxes can be added as needed for increasingly complex searches.
Users can also limit their searches by date range, full text, scholarly journals (including peer reviewed), and biographical publications. “More Search Options” provides more choices, including “Document type” (biography, editorial, interview, commentary, etc.) and “Publication types” (scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, and reference/reports).
Relevancy of Search Results
Relevancy is determined by the frequency of search words appearing in citations, abstracts, and documents. The default order of results lists is “Most relevant first.” The other two choices to sort results in the drop-down menu are “Most recent first” and “Oldest (historical) first.” By searching “homo*” (citation and document text) AND “china” (location), 54 documents are retrieved. The documents at the end of the result list include Asian or East Asian countries rather than exclusively focusing on China, as with the records at the top of list. Another search, “wom?n and president” (citation and document text) AND “united states” (location), retrieved 110 documents. The first one of these, “Of What is that Glass Ceiling Made?: A Study of Attitudes about Women and the Oval Office,” is the only document that targeted the issue of women presidents in the Untied States with results ranked by relevancy.
Important Benefits and Suggestions for Improvement
GenderWatch indexes non-mainstream publications focused on gender roles related to a wide range of social issues and presents alternative voice in current debates ranging from same-sex marriage to affirmative action. Indeed, the GW collection is useful not only for specific gender-related academic programs, but also for general academic disciplines and subject areas such as arts; media and popular culture; health; business, employment and careers; education; travel and leisure; history; journalism; political science and government; family, childcare and domestic issues; and social science disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, social work, psychology, and political science.
The “Interface Languages” feature is useful for retrieving GW’s international contents and for users who desire results in other languages. This technology is more advanced than other products, since translations are available from the levels of search page to the full-text documents themselves, while FirstSearch and CSA’s databases cannot translate text at the article level. However, since the translation of articles is done by automation, odd grammar and sentence structures are seen frequently. Nevertheless, it is better than nothing, and can serve to give users a good sense of the content in otherwise inaccessible foreign language documents. While the technology is not mature, the utilization of “Interface Languages” is a welcome challenge to the domination of the English language in global information dissemination. GenderWatch’s “hard-to-get,” non- mainstream collection holds great potential to be reached by diversified international groups across language and national boundaries, which should help to develop a more dynamic readership.
Golderman, Gail and Bruce Connolly (2004) We’re Here, We’re Queer. Library Journal 129(Summer):22-30.
Hertzler, Randy (2006) Ethnic NewsWatch (Online): News, Culture and History. ANSS Currents 21(1):3-8.