April 21, 2010
Oxford Announces Bibliography Database
Oxford University Press is announcing a new online research service, Oxford Bibliographies Online, with availability for some topics this spring. Each subject bibliography is positioned as a combination of an encyclopedia and an annotated bibliography. The Oxford information page states that each subject will start with 50-100 entries, but likens that to a 4 volume printed encyclopedia. Each topic entry is peer-reviewed and updated quarterly with some 50-75 entries.
The content, as described, combines lists of selected, annotated citations with commentary by scholars and librarians that guide users to the best literature in the field. The coverage includes print and online resources and contains capabilities to link to a subscriber's other full text databases and library catalogs to acquire content behind the pay wall. The first subjects to appear are Classics, Islamic Studies, Social Work, and Criminology. Biblical Studies, Philosophy, and Atlantic History will follow with an additional 7-10 subjects.
Oxford is apparently taking on the role of creating the uber-research guide, one that faculty and librarians can use or draw upon rather than starting from scratch. As much as I like Google Scholar for filtering scholarly materials from the general Internet, the site's secondary (advanced) filters are utilitarian at best. There are publication, author, date, and some very generalized subject areas that are limits on the general search. Nonetheless, Scholar still returns a mass of materials that may or may not require a more critical eye in picking through the results.
More detailed field searching would make Google Scholar more useful. I understand, though, why that feature is not there. Google likes to manage information via machines, with few people involved if possible. Machines can't reconcile the finer differences between the various document structures to make this possible. Oxford can offer a federated approach to identifying and reviewing useful resources, which places it somewhat above Scholar for its search results. What Oxford hasn't identified so far is what search capabilities the Online Bibliographies will have. I assume they will be on a par with those in other proprietary literature databases. The quality of Oxford's scholarship is beyond question. What I really want to see is how they handle searching in the pan format/source/document type they represent in the content The Oxford information page on the bibliographies product is here. [MG]