Oxford Reference Online. (Databases)

By Buss, Carla Wilson | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Oxford Reference Online. (Databases)


Buss, Carla Wilson, Reference & User Services Quarterly


Oxford: Oxford Univ. Pr., 2002-. www.oxfordreference.com

Pricing: Based on enrollment for academic institutions and on the size of the population served for public libraries. Prices range from $250/year for secondary schools to $2,995 for universities and four-year colleges with enrollments of more than 25,000 students. These prices reflect unlimited access. For concurrent users, the prices are lower: single user, $375; 2-5 concurrent users, $895 with additional users costing $150.

Technical Requirements: Windows IE 4.0 and higher, Windows Netscape 4.7 and higher, Macintosh IE 4.5 and higher, Macintosh Netscape 4.7 and higher.

Oxford Reference Online, a new product from Oxford University Press (OUP), offers full text of nearly one hundred of OUP's core reference collection titles in one online source. The entire content of each title is included. In a single search, patrons have access to an impressive wealth of information. The coverage is balanced, without a heavy emphasis on British-focused titles. A wide range of topics is covered, from language, the humanities, and social sciences, to business and professional topics, and science and medicine. Language and literature are well represented, with twenty-eight different titles. The fields of science and medicine are covered by nearly twenty titles. Users who encounter foreign words in the course of their research will find the four foreign language dictionaries, covering French, German, Italian and Spanish, of use. The one notable title not included is The Oxford English Dictionary Online. OUP explains that the size of the OED, as well as audience considerations, precludes it from being incorporated into Oxford Reference Online.

The search screens are easy to navigate. The basic screen provides a search box and a "Quick Search" option. From the opening screen, users can also restrict their searches to any one of twenty-three topics. There is an option to search by a particular book or title, or to browse the entire database. One problem with the search interface is that users are not instructed to enclose phrases in quotation marks. Further, searches for phrases not so enclosed appear to default to "or," not "and." OUP is working to correct these flaws. (They have also apparently corrected a weighting problem with relevancy rankings, as an earlier search that produced flawed results no longer yields those same results. …

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