Historical Research: Historical Abstracts with Full Text or Google Scholar

Article excerpt

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IN this installment of comparisons between subject-specific databases and Google Scholar, we turn our attention to world history, specifically comparing searches run in Historical Abstracts With Full Text and those run in Google Scholar.

We continue to investigate what searchers see in the first few pages of results. Users, particularly students, will rarely search more than one database if the first results they find are acceptable for their search. Thus, we're comparing the top results from each database as well as looking at each set of results individually to ascertain its quality for each search.

We ignored "cited by" related information and did not pay any attention to full-text access between the two resources since this can vary based on local subscriptions and full-text linking services. Our goal was simply to compare the results of searches within these two resources.

Over the last few years, several articles, and some related discussions, about Google Scholar as a threat to subscription databases have hit the library literature. Xiaotian Chen published, in the December 2010 Serials Review, "Google Scholar's Dramatic Coverage Improvement Five' Years After Debut" (doi:10.1016/j.serrev.2010.08.002) comparing Google Scholar to a variety of databases. Steve Lawson comments on this article in his See Also blog (http://stevelawson.name/seealso/archives/2010/11/is_ google_scholar_a_database_killer.html), which includes comments from Xiaotian Chen. Chris Neuhaus, et al., published an article in a 2006 issue of Portal: Libraries and the Academy titled "The Depth and Breadth of Google Scholar: An Empirical Study" that analyzed Google Scholar's coverage during its beta phase.

HISTORY FROM EBSCO AND GOOGLE

Historical Abstracts With Full Text, which we accessed via EBSCOhost, covers world history (excluding the U.S. and Canada). It focuses on the 15th century and after, and it covers world history, military history, women's history, history of education, and much more. It indexes articles from more than 2,300 journals in more than 40 languages dating from 1955. In addition, it provides access to the full text of more than 330 journals and 119 books. History and social science researchers have used Historical Abstracts to discover significant and groundbreaking work for more than 50 years. No other history research tool matches its scholarly standards or comprehensive coverage.

We are unsure what it means exactly by saying that it excludes the U.S. and Canada as there were numerous articles on matters that related only to these two countries.

Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com) is a search engine for scholarly literature using the tools and algorithms that created the Google search engine. It covers many subjects and includes articles, theses, books, abstracts, court opinions, and patents. The content is a mix of academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and other websites, but Google does not provide full details about the exact sources and completeness of coverage. The time frame of the content is indeterminate; articles date from as far back as the 1920s to the present.

SEARCHES ON HISTORICAL TOPICS

We conducted the following 10 searches in Google Scholar and Historical Abstracts With Full Text. We chose searches that were likely to be searched by students and faculty, including a mix of phrases, regions or countries, events, historical figures, terms, and concepts.

Due to the size and content of the two databases, comparing raw search result numbers yields irrelevant information. Google Scholar is a much larger and broader database than Historical Abstracts With Full Text. To compensate and make the comparison meaningful, we filtered all the Scholar searches by limiting to the Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities subject group within the Advanced Scholar Search options. …