A Comparison of the Usefulness of IBZ and FRANCIS for Historical Research

By Tellman, Jennalyn W. | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of the Usefulness of IBZ and FRANCIS for Historical Research


Tellman, Jennalyn W., Reference & User Services Quarterly


Two major online European journal indexes are examined to determine how useful they are in retrieving citations for materials of interest to historians. Three techniques were used: an examination of the top ten journals in history by Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) impact factor, a comparison of the journal tides of possible historical interest in each database, and a comparison of results retrieved by keyword or subject in each database. IBZ appears to retrieve more articles of interest to historians; however, many relevant articles would only be retrieved by using FRANCIS. Neither database is comprehensive.

Historians have available a variety of indexes for finding journal articles. This study focuses on two major European electronic indexes to journals: FRANCIS, produced by L'Institut de l'Information Scientifique et Technique du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, available through the Research Libraries Group (RLG); and Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur (IBZ), available from Zeller Verlag in Germany. Both cover materials in a variety of languages often missed by indexes originating in the United States. IBZ has only recently become available through the Web. This study is intended to help librarians and researchers in evaluating the usefulness of these indexes for historical topics. The study analyzes the content of the two indexes. No attempt was made to analyze the search software. This study was conducted over a period of several months and within that time, the titles of journals coverage varied.

FRANCIS is a multilingual (primarily French) and multidisciplinary database with its origins in the Bulletin Signaletique. It indexes international journals, books, conference proceedings, French dissertations, and research reports in the humanities. In 1999, it indexed 3,699 journals. Its strength is in the social sciences, the arts, and the humanities. The coverage begins with 1984.

IBZ indexes more than fifty-six hundred journals beginning with 1987 but actually includes articles from earlier years. IBZ and its coverage of German language periodicals is very strong. It concentrates on indexing European periodicals. Citations can be found in Albanian, Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Frisian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, and Spanish.

Historians have other indexes, such as Historical Abstracts, America: History and Life, International Medieval Bibliography, Database of Classical Bibliography, and Index Islamicus. Each of these is limited to a time period or region. Neither FRANCIS nor IBZ is limited by time or place.

Literature Review

There are numerous studies analyzing the information needs and information seeking behaviors of historians. It has been noted by several authors that while primary source material is of paramount importance to historians, secondary literature is also key. There are far fewer studies analyzing the abstracting and information tools that historians might find helpful. Very few of these studies analyze these tools since they have become available on the Web and these studies have chiefly focused on Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life. Many of the criticisms or problems with the print or CD-ROM sources are obviated by the type of access that the Web versions provide.

In the literature, the problems and issues addressed concern those of retrieval due to the quality of indexing terms; the incompleteness of coverage; the fact that several of the indexes focus on history while noting that history as a discipline is multidisciplinary; the paucity of coverage for European and especially German materials; and the short time span of online coverage.

Jones, Chapman, and Woods report a study of the use of material by historians of English history.

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A Comparison of the Usefulness of IBZ and FRANCIS for Historical Research
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