Choosing Databases for Sociology Studies: SocINDEX or Sociological Abstracts?

Article excerpt

When EBSCO announced its new database. SocINDEX, in April 2005, it complicated librarians' lives by adding a competitor to CSA's Sociological Abstracts, a long-standing favorite in university libraries. EBSCO's new product presented librarians with a selection decision between two databases from very-well-known companies. As usual, deciding which to offer revolves around the issues of quality and quantity.

The Sociological Abstracts' database, established in 1952, abstracts and indexes over 1,800-plus journals, books, dissertations, and conference papers in sociology and related disciplines, as stated on the product Web site [www.csa.com/factsheets/ socioabs-set-c.php]. With its history of selection, tabbed interface (on CSA's Illumina platform), and easily searched thesaurus, many librarians favor the search quality within this product and have opted to stick with the CSA product.

Like CSA, EBSCO's SocINDEX abstracts and indexes sociology and related disciplines from journals, books, and conference papers, which make up more than 1,600,000 records, as noted on its product Web site [www.epnet.com/thisTopic. php?topicID=138&marketID=1]. With its familiar interface and full-text counterpart, SocINDEX FullText, several librarians have already made the switch to EBSCO. Should Baker University follow suit? To decide, I first needed to consider our users' needs.

WHAT BAKER NEEDS

The Baker University Library serves both an undergraduate and graduate population of just over 2,700 students. Sociology students consist of mainly undergraduates located in the College of Arts and Sciences. In the college catalog, sociology is defined as "the scientific study of social behavior, social structures, and social change." In addition to developing a scientific as well as a humanistic understanding of complex social behaviors, social structures, and social change, students are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities for engaging in research and "field experiences" designed to more keenly understand sociological concepts.

While the library supports these specific sociology-related research needs, we also support the required universitywide senior capstone course. The major requirement of this course is to complete a paper related to science, technology, and human values. Part of the scope of that paper focuses on the social and ethical aspects of science and technology. This involves researching the sociological literature.

While our library is not experiencing budget cuts, we are reviewing all databases to make sure we are purchasing those that best align with our curricula. To select the best sociology database for our library, I compared Sociological Abstracts and SocINDEX, focusing on the following:

* Number of journals

* Quality of search results

* Differences in controlled vocabulary

NUMBER OF JOURNALS

Since its premiere, EBSO has marketed Soc INDEX as "the most comprehensive sociological research datahase covering the broad spectrum of sociological study." In addition, EBSCO reports that SocINDEX covers 2,908 titles as compared to Sociological Abstracts' 1,858 titles [www.epnet. com/screenshot.php?marketID= 1&topicID=4511.

To check out these numbers. I created a journal comparison database [www.bakeru.edu/library/soc_compare.html]. The most important observation, however, wasn't in the database results: It was realizing that there are two separate EBSCO title lists.There isa SocINDEX marketing title list with 3,379 titles, which includes projected titles with already signed contracts. There is also an actual title list found in the EBSCO administrative module, with 1,507 titles as of March 22, 2006.

In addition, EBSCO announced that "as of January 2006, SocINDHX will index all journals indexed in Criminal Justice Abstracts (CJA) and Social Services Abstracts." Using data from the actual title list, I found that EBSCO has indexed 157 of the 643 CJA titles to date. …