Coverage of Cultural Anthropology in ISI Web of Science: An Evaluation
Reviewed by Venta Silins, Cascadia Community College, University of Washington,
Bothell, August, 2004
Institute for Scientific Information, 3501 Market Street, Philadelphia
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This review covers the University of Washington Libraries electronic version
of the Citation Indexes.
Coverage includes Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), 1975-present;
Citation Index (SSCI), 1975-present; and Arts & Humanities Citation
Index (A&HCI), 1975-present.
In 1958 Dr. Eugene Garfield founded the Institute for Science Information
(ISI). By 1964 the
organization was producing a print version of Science Citation Index.
Print versions of Social Sciences
Citation Index and Arts and Humanities Citation Index soon followed. In
1997 ISI launched Web of
Science thereby providing Web access to the three citation indexes.
The unique feature of the citation index is its ability to provide cited
reference searching that allows the
user to track the literature forward and backward through time. It also
lets the user break through disciplinary boundaries by providing links
between articles. Cited reference indexing permits users to
capture and cross reference all the cited references, including bibliographies
and footnotes, from a
journal article. It also provides information on who is citing work and
suggests the impact the work has
on the research community.
This review will not only describe the database but will also outline
some of the strengths and limitations
of the coverage of cultural anthropology in the Web of Science
Scope, Coverage and Currency
The Web of Science indexes 1.1 million records and more than 23
million cited references per year from
more than 230 disciplines in the sciences, social sciences and arts and
humanities. It supplies cover to
cover indexing. These records include articles, bibliographies, book reviews,
corrections and additions,
editorials, letters and review papers.
Web of Science allows the user to choose which indexes to search.
In the version reviewed, the default
searched all three indexes. Institutions can elect to purchase access
to one, two or all three indexes.
Science Citation Index Expanded
Social Sciences Citation Index
Arts and Humanities Citation Index
Date Range (Based on Licensing)
Number of Journals Fully Indexed
Number of Journals Selectively Indexed
Number of New Records Per Week
Number of New Cited References Per Week
Percent of Searchable, Full-Length Abstracts
Since 1991, 70%
Since 1992 60%
Since 2000, 60%
Areas of Interest to Cultural Anthropologists
Ethnomedicine, Ethnobotany, Environment
Cultural Anthropology, Ethnohistory, Linguistics,
Public Health, Sociology
Art, Folklore, Linguistics, Ethnomusicology, Indigenous
Format and Organization
The overall format of Web of Science is user friendly. The user
has two choices at the opening screen: Easy Search or Full Search.
Easy Search asks the user, What do you want to find information on?
and provides three choices: Topic, Person or Place. It is important for
the user to remember that not all records have abstracts or subject headings,
and therefore, the database might give limited results when searching
by natural language. The database provides helpful tips on how to search
Full Search allows the user to select General Search, Advanced Search
or Cited Reference Search.
The General Search, similar to the Easy Search, allows the user to search
by Topic, Author, Source Title, or Author(s) Address. The user can also
set search limits by language or document type. The labels to the search
fields are hyperlinked to information on how to search the field. The
Source Title field also provides a link to the entire journal list while
the Address field provides information on the types of abbreviations necessary
to search the field.
The Advanced Search allows the user to create a more sophisticated search
structure. It displays the Field Tags and the Boolean Operators.
The Advanced Search also lets the user restrict the search by language
or document type.
The Cited Reference Search allows the user to find articles that have
cited a particular article. The user can use Cited Author, Cited Work,
or Cited Year. Each field provides the user information on how to correctly
search the field. For example, users must use the last name and first
initial and second initial, if known. Full first names are not used in
Indexing and Subject Access
Web of Science does not have standard indexing and subject access.
There is neither author index nor thesaurus. Subject access is through
author-written abstracts, and not all records have abstracts. Users need
to know the limits of using this database for natural language or subject
Accuracy and Precision of Records
The most typical type of error in this database is an inaccurate citation.
For example, page numbers could be incorrectly cited in one article and
subsequent articles could continue to cite incorrectly. The user should
also be aware that imprecise results can occur in this database when using
hyphenated names, multiple authors, inconsistent abbreviations and authors
with same last names and initials. (Corby, 2001).
Web of Science is not a full-text database. It provides citation
information, times cited, a link to the record’s citation list and often
an abstract. Some citations in the citation list are linked allowing the
user easy access to other records.
Some institutions use specialized software (such as SFX by Ex Libris)
that allows the user to link to the online catalog or to full-text electronic
journals. While this feature is easily noticed on the database’s search
results Web page, library instruction will help the user make the most
out of this feature especially when the links have a tendency to fail.
Analysis of Web of Science in the Field of Cultural Anthropology
Web of Science’s Citation Indexes’ most powerful characteristic
is its cited reference function. It allows users to move forward and backward
through time and cross disciplinary boundaries. For example, a user has
an article written in 1995. She wishes to find other scholars researching
the same subject. By using the cited reference function, she is able to
find articles that have cited the 1995 article. Access to these new records
not only provides her with new research in the area, it also gives her
each article’s reference list. Furthermore, the database notes whether
the newer articles have been cited providing her with even more current
research. The Related Records function also notes articles that contain
the same citations.
Web of Science is one of the most complex and powerful citation
databases available. It is in the interest of our users that librarians
provide thorough training on how to use Web of Science effectively.
While the database provides an array of sophisticated searching capabilities,
the interface is simple and created in a clean style that users should
be able to master, especially after library instruction. There is ample
help online help screens available at each search level.
Coverage of cultural anthropology varies by topic. The search term anthropolog*
in the General Search or Topic Search matched 18,084 documents of the
27,233,381 in the data limits selected. The following are other major
terms used in cultural anthropology and the number of records retrieved:
Journal searching produced the following matches in Web of Science:
Journal search using anthropolog* in title retrieved 21 journals.
Journal search using cultur* in title retrieved 35 journals.
Journal search using ethnic* in title retrieved 4 journals.
Journal search using ethno* in title retrieved 7 journals.
While Web of Science indexes all the journals cited in Joyce Ogburn’s
(2001) article, Journals of the Century in Anthropology and Archaeology,
it appears to fall short of indexing most of the journals in cultural
anthropology. This will be further discussed below.
The journal list is available from the database and ISI Web of Science‘s
Web site. Subscribers have access to the list of journals indexed by ISI.
The Web of Science Web site also includes the complete list of
journals, as well as recent changes in journal coverage. The Web site
provides information on the journal selection and evaluation process and
how to recommend journals for coverage.
Comparisions with Related Sources and Recommendations for Improvement
No other database provides the cited reference searching making the citation
indexes a powerful research tool. Again, library instruction in the use
of this database will help users understand the limitations of the database
when researching in the areas of anthropology. As noted earlier, its largest
weakness is its relatively limited coverage in the field of cultural anthropology.
While the complexities of the database make it difficult to conduct a
full evaluation of its coverage in anthropology, as noted earlier, anthropological
journals are underrepresented in the database. For example, Anthropological
Literature indexes 822 current journals and serials titles (not all of
these journals are in cultural anthropology), while Web of Science
indexes fewer than 75 journals. While ISI maintains its journal selection
accepts only the highest quality journals in a field (Testa, 2003), anthropology
is still not fully covered. For example, Ulrich’s International Periodical
indicates that there are 564 active, refereed journals in cultural anthropology.
(The method used to achieve this number was the same as the one used in
searching for journal titles in the Web of Science database.)
This underrepresentation is likewise found in other areas in the social
sciences. For example, Kate Corby (2001) found that education’s two major
databases, ERIC and Education Abstracts, together covered a combined 1,124
education related journals. Of these combined journals, only 27% are indexed
by Social Sciences Citation Index. Corby also found that SSCI covered
only 35% of the journals indexed in Sociological Abstracts.
At the 2003 American Library Association’s Annual Conference, a representative
from Thomson ISI discussed the issue of education’s underrepresentation
in the Web of Science database. She noted that lack of funds for
adding and indexing additional education journals is one issue facing
the organization. Yet she was willing to discuss the concerns of education
librarians. A committee of the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section
of ACRL began a project to maintain contact with ISI to work toward including
more education titles in this very important database. A worthwhile endeavor
might be for ANSS to collaborate with ISI Thomson to make the Web of
Science, especially the Social Sciences Citation Index and the Arts
and Humanities Citation Index, a richer and deeper source of information
for its researchers in cultural anthropology.
Corby, K. (2001). Method or madness? Educational research and citation
prestige. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 1(3), 279-288.
Ogburn, J., Smith, C.J, & Finnegan, G. (2001). Journals of the century
in anthropology and archaeology. Serials Librarian, 39(4), 69-78.
Testa, J. (2003). The Thomson ISI journal selection process. Serials
Review, 29(3), 210-212.