Web-Based Resources for Anthropology Research

By Gardner, Susan; Eng, Susanna | Online, November-December 2006 | Go to article overview

Web-Based Resources for Anthropology Research


Gardner, Susan, Eng, Susanna, Online


Anthropology, generally defined as "the study of humankind" or "the study of humanity," is the most diverse of the social sciences. The Wikipedia entry for anthropology says that this discipline is "concerned with all humans at all times"--not a bad assessment. It encompasses the unlimited study of diverse ethnic groups of all eras and in all geographical regions who are engaged in all manner of human behavior. Talk about broad!

Because it is so broad, scholars generally divide anthropology into four subcategories: physical anthropology, cultural or social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archaeology. Noted anthropologist Eric R. Wolf's often-quoted observation that anthropology is "the most scientific of the humanities, and the most humanistic of the sciences" lends a great deal of perspective to just how expansive the discipline truly is. Researchers in the field find it a challenge to identify one anthropology resource that will adequately touch on all aspects, and, in fact, such a resource doesn't quite exist. Therefore, it is important to learn the resources that are best for different aspects of the topic.

This article will examine the best, most useful Web-based resources in anthropology. The selected resources are a combination of free and fee-based, divided into the categories of "searchable" and "nonsearchable."

Within the searchable and nonsearchable differentiation, we have further divided them into the four types of anthropology. We examined each resource and assessed them for access, scope, and content; ease of use; and strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to make readers aware of the pros and cons of each selected resource so they can become savvy researchers on all aspects of anthropology.

SEARCHABLE RESOURCES IN GENERAL ANTHROPOLOGY

AnthroSource

AnthroSource [www.anthrosource.net] is a full-text archive of 32 journals, newsletters, and bulletins published by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), published in partnership with the University of California Press, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. You can search the database without paying, but for access to the full text, you must be a subscriber or a member of the AAA.

Searching is easy: There is a quick search option that searches all fields and an advanced search option that lets you limit by abstract, title, keywords, author, year, and affiliation. Browsing individual issues of a journal is also possible. Other user-friendly features include the ability to search with Boolean logic; search within results; save, e-mail, or send an article to a citation manager; set up search alerts; and view related articles. You can sort results by relevancy or date, and the relevancy feature works well in bringing the most important articles to the top of search results. Full text of the articles is available as a searchable PDF format, and abstracts are available for most articles.

The main weakness of this resource is the fact that a few titles have missing issues in their runs, which makes it an incomplete archive. Updating appears to take place at various intervals, but irregularly, and only gradually are back issues and more content being added to the archive. Furthermore, six core titles' backrun before 1997 are archived in JSTOR rather than in AnthroSource, which means that unless you subscribe to JSTOR, you cannot access the full text of these articles.

The primary audience for this resource is anthropologists and academics, since it covers all four subcategories of anthropology. Sample searches looking at the first 30 results on Jarmo, a village of early farmers in Northern Iraq, and chicha, a fermented beverage from South America, reveal a wide date range (1919-2005) and content that is primarily book reviews and, to a lesser extent, journal articles. Occasional miscellaneous items such as editorials, obituaries, and announcements also appear. …

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