Archive for the ‘Databases’ Category


How to Decipher a Jacoby FGrH Citation

November 11, 2014

TL;DR Version (skip to the long version if you like storytelling and don’t want spoilers):

For a given Jacoby citation in the format (example) 3F11, parse as follows:

  • 3 is the author number. Each author has a unique number. There is an author index in the original print set, in volume III, part C, pp. 947-64, if you know the author’s name but not the number. The authors appear in the print volumes in numerical order (depending on your binding, the author numbers in a given book may well be printed on the spine. Author 3 is in the very first book in the set, natch, following authors 1 and 2.)
  • F is for fragment; T is for testimonial. Once you find the section on a given author, the fragments appear before the testimonia.
  • 11 is the number of the fragment being cited. These appear in numerical order in the print volumes, so 3F11 will follow 3F10 and precede 3F12.

The Long Version

The origin of this post was a plea by IM from a librarian friend who was staffing the chat reference service at an academic library. A student had the citation “3F11” and the knowledge that this referred to Jacoby’s Fragmente Der Greichischen Historiker (usually abbreviated FGrH, so the student had probably already done some work before turning to a librarian.) My friend was able to tell the student that their institution owned the print volumes (WorldCat), although they did not have access to the digital version available through Brill, and that it was a 15-volume set, but the student really wanted a volume and page number.

My friend was hopeful that F stood for “fascicle” and that 3F11 somehow meant volume 3, fascicle 11, and then some unknown page. Jacoby citations are not that straightforward, though; the work is tricky enough to use that a three-volume freestanding index was published by P. Bonnechere in 1999 (WorldCat).  In his 2000 review at BMCR, J. Marincola explained the difficulties:

… although a masterpiece, FGrHist has never been an easy work to use. Jacoby insisted on a peculiar arrangement by sub-genres of historical writing (as he conceived them). This by itself would have been difficult, but it was then further complicated by a concession to practicality, namely, an arrangement by author rather than by individual work. And yet if an author wrote works in a variety of (Jacoby’s) sub-genres (as many did), he could, nevertheless, appear in only one section. Jacoby seems to have decided what work of the author was most important and then assigned him to the category that best described that work. So, for example, Arrian wrote a Parthika (on Rome’s wars with Parthia from the first century BCE to his own time) and a Bithyniaka (a history of his homeland Bithynia), but he is to be found amongst the historians of Alexander’s Successors — no doubt because his Affairs after Alexander is his most important (i.e., for us) fragmentary work. Before the volumes under consideration here, the only help we have had in using FGrHist has been an alphabetical list of authors at the end of III.C., pp. 947-64 …

If either the student or the librarian had been standing in front of the print volumes, this problem of “what does 3F11 mean?” would have been pretty easy to solve. I found out that 3 was the ‘author number’ via the review of the index quoted above, but if you pulled the first volume off the shelf and flipped through, it would have been reasonably apparent that the volume was organized by numbers assigned to authors, and happily enough, author 3 is in the first volume. I could walk up to the books and start flipping and using logic get to the correct page pretty quickly. (A student might still have been kind of intimidated by the sheer volume of information available, plus the fact that nothing is in English.)

Jacoby FGrH volumes on shelf


Sorry for the blurriness of some of the iPad photos. I seem to have shaky hands. Here’s our fragment!

Jacoby FGrH 3F11

Now, if you did’t have a citation, but knew that you wanted a fragment of Glaukippos, or whoever, you’d turn to the Author Index in the original print set (vol. III part C pp. 947-64) and find out your author’s number, then find the correct volume for that author. So looking at the page below, Glaukippos is author number 363 and is found in vol. III part B.

Author index in III C of Jacoby FGrH

For a more detailed treatment in list form of the sources of the fragments, the Bonnechard index is the right place to look.  Here’s the page on our friend Author 3 (Pherekydes of Athens):

from 1999 index to Jacoby FGrH

My librarian friend’s institution doesn’t subscribe to the digital Brill’s New Jacoby (which is bundled with digital versions of the original Jacoby volumes in Jacoby Online, and which is not yet complete but estimated to be so in 2017) but I was at the University of Cincinnati Library and they do, so I checked it out.  A search for 3F11 netted 5 results (and unfortunately our fragment was last on the result list for some reason).

Search Results 3F11 - Brill Reference 2014-10-07 13-52-55

Here’s the entry for our fragment 3F11, :

Pherekydes of Athens (3) F 11 - Brill Reference 2014-10-07 13-54-58




L’Annee Philologique – EBSCO Interface

November 1, 2013

Last month an embarrassingly long time ago now that it’s November, I spent a day off work at the  John Miller Burnam Classical Library at the University of Cincinnati, and among the errands I undertook was a look at their trial of the EBSCO interface to L’Annee Philologique.  Following are my notes, keeping in mind I probably only spent an hour or two total with the database, and several things occurred to me afterwards that I did not have the ability to go back and check on. I welcome comments from others who have tested, or adopted, this interface for L’Annee.

Overall they have done a surprisingly good job of translating the quirks of L’Annee into the standard EBSCO format (when I worked at UGA, we subscribed to a large number of EBSCO databases, so I have spent a lot of time with the blue-and-green logo ball).  But for those of us pretty intimately familiar with both, the mashup is kind of weird and takes some getting used to!

The Basics
The Cincinnati trial put the user by default into the “Advanced Search” interface. In my experience, academic libraries usually get to choose where the user lands, and “Advanced Search” is a pretty obvious choice for a complex index like L’Annee.  A major advantage of Advanced Search at EBSCO (and indeed at most database providers) is it nudges the user in the direction of Boolean searching by presenting 3 search boxes.  They are initially connected by “AND” but there is a drop-down menu allowing the user to change to “OR” or “NOT.”

L'Annee in Ebsco interface Advanced Search

The choices of “fields” (indexes) to search from Advanced Search are as follows, with [notes in square brackets] made by me:

  • TX (All Text Fields) [this is the default]
  • TI [title, obviously]
  • AU [author, ditto – modern author]
  • RW (Author, Reviewed by)
  • SU [appears to search all subject headings by keyword, i.e. both of below]
  • DD (Subjects and Disciplines Prior to Vol. 67)
  • DG (Subjects and Disciplines Vol. 67 & After)
  • AB (Abstract)
  • AN (Accession Number) [N.B. these are unique numbers for each citation in the database]
  • AC (Ancient Authors and Texts) [note of course searching “homer” here gets you nothing – more on this below]
  • SA (Archaeological Sites)
  • ED (Editor)
  • GE (Geographic Subject) [What is this searching? “athens” found 2 results – both Athens, GA. ]
  • IS (ISSN)
  • LA (Language)
  • PE (Name of Scholar) [looks like it searches scholar’s name in subjects]
  • NT (Notes) [cannot figure out WHAT this is searching?!]
  • RS (Publication Name, Reviewed By)
  • DT (Publication Date)

Some of these are rather strange or opaque, as my notes indicate. While being able to search all the indexed fields available in a database is nice, in this case the labels on the fields can be misleading or simply perplexing. There are some that seem so obscure they might better have been left out, in my opinion.  Most entry-level searchers may do best to stick to TX, which does a keyword search of the record (equivalent to a “full text” search in the L’Annee native interface).

What is lost here from the native interface of L’Annee is the extremely useful autofill feature for searching (modern) Authors and Ancient Authors and Texts.  In the native interface, if you start typing “hom” in the box when searching Ancient Authors and Texts, you will automatically be directed to a list of possible matches, which usefully demonstrates that “homer” is not indexed but “homerus” is (in L’Annee, all ancient authors and texts are indexed under their latin names.)

The EBSCO interface does attempt to replicate these useful features by allowing the user to browse some of the indexes – accessed by  More -> Indexes.  Browsing the Ancient Authors and Texts index does not include the autofill feature, however, and there’s no “did you mean” feature here, leading to what I call the classic “Juvenal Fail” in L’Annee:

L'Annee in Ebsco interface Ancient Authors search for Juvenal Fails

Imagine how boggled an undergraduate would be by this! And there’s no help text to tell you to try the latin name.  Browsing for a modern author is less likely to result in failure:

L' Annee in Ebsco interface, Browsing the Author Index

One can also browse the Archaeological Site index, which is very useful for archaeologists, once you get over the hurdle that the site names are all exclusively in French and must be browsed by the strict format “country (site name)”.  So my test of “ath” to try to see what Athens was indexed as brought me sites in Austria:

LAnneee in Ebsco interface Browse archaeological site Site test using Ath

One can also browse the two Subjects and Disciplines indexes, and these operate exactly as in the native interface, where one can expand the broad terms by clicking to reach deeper levels of the subject classification.

Good Things
L’Annee in its native interface abbreviates the titles of journals, which only expand when hovered over with the cursor. In the EBSCO interface journal titles are expanded by default, but abbreviations are also included, and can be searched interchangeably with the full titles.  I tested a search for “aja” and found it returned the same results as a search for “american journal of archaeology.” Yay!

Things I Might Change
The EBSCO interface is in English, of course, but subject headings that appear (i.e. in the sidebar to facet a search after it’s been made, and in individual records, see image below) appear in both French and English (duplicates), which I can see as confusing and/or off-putting to undergraduates who are wary of languages they don’t know.  This seems a strange choice – why not simply include the English translations and leave out the French originals?

L'Annee in Ebsco interface - Record

Another EBSCO feature included in this version of L’Annee is the suggestion of alternative search terms when a search returns few/no results, displaying “did you mean…”.  I found this only appeared some of the time – perhaps the less common vocabulary of classics sometimes stumped EBSCO’s recommender – and when it did appear was sometimes useful and sometimes not. (This is not a problem unique to L’Annee – at one point I had a small collection of wildly irrelevant things databases would suggest to me I ‘might have meant’.) Overall, in assessing whether this feature added value or complicated matters, I might well have chosen to leave it off.

Who might consider purchasing L’Annee through EBSCO in addition to the native L’Annee interface, adding L’Annee at EBSCO when they do not subscribe to the native interface, or switching?  Factors will vary at different institutions.  For starters, I have no information about price.  Anecdotally, I heard from one person that the EBSCO interface was more expensive than the native, and from another person, the reverse.  (This is by no means unlikely – pricing for library subscription databases is generally not transparent, and will vary according to the size and classification of the institution as well as local and/or consortial deals involving purchase of multiple products from a given vendor.)

A second question to consider is who uses L’Annee.  In my anecdotal experience, faculty use it occasionally to rarely – they tend to conduct research by bibliographic chaining out from known items, and looking for new publications by scholars whose work they already know.  Graduate students, especially PhD students, are probably the heaviest users, given their need to move from a position of little knowledge on a subject to mastery of it, often including a full historical literature review.  Graduate students also have a minor tendency to become obsessed with bibliographic completeness (raise your hand if this is you.) In my experience, undergraduates are generally slow to be exposed to L’Annee, even those majoring in Classics at top-ranked institutions. They are unlikely to be using it at all unless a librarian or faculty member has both recommended it and taken the time to demonstrate its value. The EBSCO interface might make L’Annee an easier sell for undergraduates – since after all, you can plop “homer” into a keyword search box that looks pretty standard and get (some) results. Grad students and faculty are more likely to resist change, and in my opinion the EBSCO interface doesn’t add anything valuable enough to the native one to be a dealbreaker.

A third question is, does your institution already subscribe to a large number of EBSCO databases, and is your library promoting a unified search of the local catalog and subscription databases (like GIL-Find/Multi-Search at UGA or Summon at Cincinnati)? If you’re already heavily EBSCO, you’ll likely get a better price, and your students will already feel pretty comfortable with the look and feel of EBSCO.  More classics-themed results will be included in a catalog-and-database combined search. That might make switching worth it.

Who else has had a trial of the EBSCO version of L’Annee? What was your evaluation, and what has your institution chosen to do?


TOCS-IN at Zotero: A Project That Didn’t Work

September 20, 2012

So, blogging a project that didn’t work – good idea or not?  Let’s see…

The project was to get the content of the TOCS-IN citation database into the free, open-access bibliographic software Zotero (which David Pettegrew discusses today; his post kicked me over my hesitation about blogging this project). I wanted to do this for two reasons: to draw increased attention to TOCS-IN, which is an excellent, open-access bibliographic resource for Classicists, and make it especially accessible to Zotero users; and to make the TOCS-IN content potentially available as Linked Open Data, because Zotero can export files in BIBO, a linked open data format for bibliographic citations.

My steps were:

1. Get permission from P.M.W. Matheson of the University of Toronto, the manager of the volunteer-driven TOCS-IN project, to use the available data files for this purpose.  She was helpful and supportive – thank you!

2. Write a Python script to convert the data file formatting from a custom SGML markup to RIS format, a common format for bibliographic citations (used by Zotero as well as EndNote, which created it.) I am not a programmer, but happily my husband is; this piece would not have been possible without his help, although I did big chunks of it All By Myself.

3. Add the RIS-formatted citations to a Zotero Group library. This turned out to be the problem.  In theory, there is no limit to the number of bibliographic citations that can be stored by a Zotero user.  In practice, once I got about 40,000 (of the ca. 80,000) citations uploaded my Zotero standalone software began freezing every time I attempted to do anything (like stubbornly add another several thousand citations), and refusing to sync with the online Group Library.  A question posted in the Zotero forums got the swift and helpful confirmation that the sync process simply cannot handle such large datasets well, and that I alone would not be affected; any users who tried to use this large group library would start crashing their Zotero instances as well.

What now?

It’s possible that Zotero, which is actively under development, will make it possible to create very large citation libraries. Zotero used to not be able to handle a couple of thousand citations in one library, and now it can do that with ease (as, for example, the ASCSA Group Library of 2553 items demonstrates). But it may not be a priority for Zotero’s developers to move in that direction; most people use Zotero for personal citation libraries, not as de facto mirror sites for large bibliographic indices.

I have looked at BibSoup/BibServer, related projects that allow the open-access presentation of bibliographic data online, deal with a wide variety of formats (bibtex, MARC, RIS, BibJSON, RDF), and are relevant to the Linked Open Data goal of this project (full RESTful API).  I really liked Zotero simply because it is already very popular with humanities-oriented users and likely to become more so (it seems especially popular among graduate students). BibSoup is geared toward STEM academics, and currently only has about 17,000 citations total (and I’m a little hesitant about breaking things after my Zotero experience!); BibServer requires a server and IT chops which I lack. I do think these applications have a lot of potential, but I don’t think they will work for my project right now.  I’d welcome an argument on this point, or any other suggestions.

Finally, I’d like to add a quick recap and appreciation of what TOCS-IN is and comprises.  TOCS-IN is a bibliographic database  that is fully open-access (searchable at Toronto and at Louvain) and entirely crowd-sourced – that is to say, made possible by the contributions of volunteers who transcribe or copy and paste journal tables of contents and format them for inclusion in the database.  A list of volunteers is available at the site, as is a list of journals currently needing a volunteer.  Do consider joining us; I am currently covering three journals, and the time burden is minimal, especially if the journal publishes its table of contents online (much less typing!)

The basic portion of TOCS-IN is about 80,000 citations, comprising the tables of contents of about 180 journals, all among those indexed by the subscription database L’Annee Philologique. The project began in 1992, so chronological coverage mostly starts there.  A comprehensive list of titles, volumes, and issue numbers is available at the Toronto site. TOCS-IN at Toronto and Louvain currently also searches an additional ca. 56,000 citations, including tables of contents of some TOCS-IN journals dating before 1992 (listed at Louvain), and edited volumes, festschrifts, etc. (listed at Toronto).


Resource Review: LIMCicon and LIMCbiblio

May 18, 2012

I have mentioned before that LIMC – Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae – is one of my favorite Classics reference resources, so I was excited to receive notice of an online version of LIMC through The Ancient World Online. Upon review it’s not quite what I was expecting, and it might not be a the best place to send undergraduates, but it’s a wonderful, free online resource for the serious study of classical myth and religion.

The first important thing to note is that LIMCicon, the main of the three databases at the site, is NOT a digital version of the print LIMC volumes, which was what I was expecting.  (It nicely tells you this on the landing page.) Instead, it contains “contains the iconographical documents kept both in France and elsewhere that have been catalogued and analysed by the French LIMC team.”  Thus, it is a searchable database of the visual sources used in compiling LIMC (although, as the site states clearly, it is not comprehensive of everything published in the print volumes, and adds material not in the print volumes.)

The “detailed search” interface for LIMCicon is complex. I found it simplest to choose the name of the mythical figure I wanted from the scroll-down list available under Iconography; I would guess this would be useful for many researchers, who want images of Apollo or Hera.  One can also choose an iconographic keyword – “drinking horn”, “abduction” – to find images with these elements.  The results display in a short list; clicking on the image will take one to a full digital “ID card” for the object, with the essential information about it, including bibliography, and close-up images.  Unfortunately for the majority of results, no images are available in LIMCicon; to actually see the images, one must search elsewhere, often in a print-only reference.  I would guess this had to do with copyright issues in an open digital resource.  The “expert search” allows the researcher to combine searches using Boolean operators; one is cautioned that it is not fully implemented.

LIMCbiblio, the second database, is an important source of bibliography on classical mythology and religion.  I couldn’t find an explicit statement of what is included, but I think it covers additions to the bibliographies published for each entry in the print LIMC volumes. As a result, the dates vary by topic, with the earliest citations about 1984, and with citations coming down to the late 2000s.  Bibliographic citations include books and articles, and are in multiple languages (I saw one in Polish, so they extend beyond the major European languages.) The database can be searched by the entry titles that have appeared in the print LIMC volumes (generally the names of important mythological and religious figures); these can also be chosen from a scrollable alphabetical list. Bibliographic citations about specific images included in the LIMCicon database are included, and can be searched for specifically, although they also show up when you search by entry/topic.

LIMCabrev is fairly straightforward searchable database of the bibliographical abbreviations used by LIMC.  It works in both directions: one can choose an abbreviation (available in a scrollable alphabetized list) and see what the full title is, or find a title and see the abbreviation LIMC uses.  This part of the site should be included, with the American Journal of Archaeology and Aristarchos, in the scholar’s free digital toolkit for deciphering obscure journal and series title abbreviations.

Overall, the site is stylistically similar to many serious scholarly websites in Classics; it is rather dense and the search interfaces are especially visually cluttered (although very detailed).  The entire site is available in French, English, German, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, and Arabic interfaces (I didn’t test all of them!)  Unicode is used for non-Roman characters.  Free registration is required, and somewhat detailed personal information is requested.  There is also a detailed statement about intellectual property.  I did not try to fill out the required fields with false data to see if I could be truly anonymous, but if you’d like to try, let me know if it works. Upon registering, I got a screen that seemed to imply my registration had not worked, but then when I tried to log in using the account I had just created, it worked, so don’t let that stop you.

Who is it for?

Although the interface is available in English, this isn’t a great site for undergraduates as a whole; it’s too complex, and doesn’t give a 100-level Mythology student what he really needs (the basics).  I would show it to honors or upper-level classes doing projects in classical mythology or classical art history/archaeology involving images of the gods and mythical figures; the LIMCbiblio section gives valuable references to complement and bring up to date the print volumes, and LIMBicon gives a nice listing of images.  For graduate students and faculty doing research in these fields, it is an excellent and useful resource, although it does not replace the print volumes.


The Future of L’Annee Philologique

April 17, 2012

I am possibly the last Classics-related blogger to post the petition asking the German government and/or Heidelberg to reconsider defunding the German office of L’Annee; North American readers should also have a look at today’s APA’s blog post on the subject, which makes the activities of the several national offices of the APA more clear to those not familiar with them, and vaguely promises some future call to action.  It seems the German office has fallen prey to one of the classic Catch-22 situations of academic funding: there are funds for exciting new projects, but it’s very hard to fund a project that has been going on for 100 years, no matter how useful it may be.

I hope and trust that L’Annee will not go away; it remains the most comprehensive bibliographic index for Classics.  I will admit to indulging in some private speculation about what I might design to replace L’Annee Philologique if it did go away (first, I’d have a much more robust subject classification using a standard vocabulary of keywords).  I also wonder if there are any good numbers out there (public numbers) about how often L’Annee is used, and by whom.  I was rather surprised when the new interface debuted a couple of springs ago, and nobody seemed to notice for several weeks, suggesting that the average Classics scholar does not use L’Annee every day, or even every week.  For the Younger Generation (aka These Kids Today) is Google Scholar coming first?

In other news, I am still working at the University of Cincinnati Classics Library, currently on a part-time basis (by my choice) doing a shift of the journals.  It’s rather meditative, looking at the rows of bound volumes, and thinking about the venerable reliables that crank out an issue faithfully every year, and have done so for 125 years; the hopeful upstarts that published for a decade and then died; the lean years (World War II is notable in the thinness of many European titles) and the skipped issues, and the journals that keep getting fatter.  Sometimes I have deep thoughts, and then other times I just think too many articles are being published, and my thumb hurts.


Google Scholar Citations & Wikipedia Initiative

November 20, 2011

I started a temporary job this week, at the University of Cincinnati Classics Library. It was sudden, and is temporary, because it followed the unexpected death of David Ball, the longtime Circulation Supervisor there, and PhD of that department, whom I knew slightly during our overlap in the Blegen in 2000. He is and will continue to be much missed.

In my experience the first week of a new job one is either left alone and bored for long periods while training is being organized, or one is run off one’s feet.  Guess which last week was for me? There’s also some “work for hire” language in the temp agency paperwork that makes me uncomfortable, so I’ll be blogging exclusively on my own time, which has many other demands on it already, such as 3rd grade spelling homework.  Two quick notes, though:

Following swiftly on the heels of the Bing Scholar outreach into Arts and Humanities, Google has opened up its “Citations” program to all comers.  What this means is you can sign up to manage a page for yourself as a Google Scholar author, verify that scholarly works Google Scholar identifies as by you are actually by you, and link out to a web site (hmm, following on Chuck Jones’s post about the prevalence of full-text papers in Institutional Repositories and desirability of an index thereto, why not link to a place scholars can download .pdfs of your work?)  There are also the beginnings of citation metrics, a feature Microsoft Academic Search is also developing, both as a challenge to the most commonly used metrics in (subscription-based) Science Citation Index at Web of Science.

Here’s a link to my citations page, if you want to see what it looks like.  Obviously if your name is as uncommon as mine, you’re probably easily findable in Google Scholar anyway, but if you share a name with many scholars in many fields, Google Scholar Citations is a great way to make your work more easily findable amidst the mass of Karen Joneses out there.

On another topic, I sadly neglected to note who brought to my attention the American Sociological Association’s call for a Wikipedia Initiative among scholars in that field.  Hat tip to somebody, probably Chuck Jones or David Meadows!  The essay linked above can be boiled down to: Think Wikipedia stinks for sociology? Well, people are going to keep using it, so why not make it better?  Gabriel Bodard bruited the idea of a Classics Wikipedia Hack Day on Twitter a while back, but enthusiasm was somewhat limited.  I myself was a bit daunted when I set out to be a one-woman Wikipedia Classics Hacker, and wrote about some reasons why.  But I still think it would be valuable, and one might even argue that it’s necessary, for scholars to improve Wikipedia articles in their fields. I just can’t quite see yet how to make it happen, and I hope the Sociologists find a good way forward with this.


Academic Search from Microsoft (Yup, it’s Bing Scholar)

November 8, 2011

I still get a ton of traffic to this blog from people searching for a Microsoft Bing version of Google Scholar.  Yesterday I got a comment from someone who works at Microsoft linking me to such a service, which now exists in beta (whatever that means, anymore).

Please consider the following assessment of Microsoft Academic Search, as it seems to be formally called, an addendum to my long post
Comparing citation searching: Google, Bing, Google Scholar, Web of Science, L’Annee originally written in October 2009. (You know in my mind it’s just going to be Bing Scholar, forever and ever.)

Short reminder of the method – I vanity searched myself, under the names “Phoebe Acheson” and “Phoebe E. Acheson” (with and without quotes if the search engine supported them) and reported on how much of my professional work was found.

Microsoft Academic Search (
Microsoft Academic Search is a free online scholarly search engine which debuted in late 2009 with limited discipline coverage, but has expanded a great deal over the course of 2011.  (According to this report, there was no Humanities or Social Science content yet as of July 2011; there is now.) It’s very hard to find a statement of where the content indexed by Microsoft Academic Search comes from; it does not appear to come through direct partnerships with academic publishers, as Google Scholar uses.  Instead, Microsoft Academic Search uses a “focus crawler” and indexes data (including some but not all metadata) from web sites listing citations.  (This information comes from a Microsoft Q&A forum in 2010; a list of the top 100 sites indexed is included as are some specifics about metadata collected.) A major difference from Google Scholar is that Microsoft Academic Search seems to index (and thus search) only citations, not the full text of articles.

As of this writing, Microsoft Academic Search states that it contains 36,684,112 publications by 18,820,566 authors, and is updated weekly, with 123,978 items added last week.  Microsoft Academic Search classifies its content by Domains, which are heavily tilted towards scientific disciplines (Agricultural Science, Materials Science) but now include Arts & Humanities, Business and Economics, and Social Science.  One advantage of the domain classification is that one can limit a search by one or more domains; this fixes a common problem in Google Scholar in which name searches for classical scholars turn up many articles by same or similar-named authors in scientific fields.  Search results can also be narrowed by domain, a very big improvement over Google Scholar.  How the Domains are assigned is not stated, of course, so interdisciplinary topics might be tricky to place accurately.

When I searched for Phoebe Acheson, a box above the results set asked me if I was searching for one of two authors, Phoebe Acheson or Phoebe E. Acheson (I have published under both names).  For a more common name – I used Steve Thompson – a long list of possibilities appears, but at least some of them are distinguished by academic affiliations, and a few have a photo!  It is possible to create and account, log in and add information to Microsoft Academic Search, and one thing a researcher can do is “claim” her own articles and create a profile (and apparently upload a picture.)  (Google Scholar has a feature like this which came out last summer, but I signed up on the wait list to claim my account then and still haven’t heard back from them.)

Microsoft Academic Search found 4 publications for me, and they are all works that I authored or co-authored.  One publication is listed twice; apparently the algorithm is not too good at detecting duplicates, as the only difference is the absence of page numbers in one of the citations. A check of Google Scholar using the search Phoebe Acheson turns up a total of 275 citations, but only the top 5 are actually things I published.  Thus, while Google Scholar includes more erroneous results, it also includes more correct results (and remember, it is searching the full text of articles – so it finds any publications that mention my name).  I would guess that Microsoft Academic Search will improve in this area, as Humanities and Social Science domains are new to the system and presumably growing.  Microsoft Academic Search, like Google Scholar, includes a citation index feature allowing one to see other works which have cited a paper.  This feature also suffers from the limited content of Microsoft Academic Search; a paper listed as cited 14 times in Google Scholar has no citations in Microsoft, and another cited 8 times in Google Scholar is cited once in Microsoft.  Since Microsoft Academic Scholar is using this citation information to develop citation metrics (see this Nature article), the speedy growth of the material set indexed by Microsoft is urgent to make the numbers have real meaning.

So, the content for the Humanities and Social Sciences is very limited still.  Where Microsoft Academic Search shines, and challenges Google Scholar, is the added features.  The ability to facet a search by domain and the existence of author pages (here’s Jack L. Davis) were mentioned above.  There are also pages for journals (here’s Hesperia), built in citation graphs and co-author webs, and various other neat bells and whistles (a Call For Proposal search that can specify by location of the conference – I guess for when you’re dying to visit Florence for work!)

I recommend most classics scholars and students check Google Scholar when searching for articles on a topic, in addition to looking in  discipline-specific bibliographic sources.  (I also LOVE it for citation-checking – when you’ve copied something down wrong, or can’t remember a subtitle, Google Scholar is almost always the fastest way to get the right information.)  Microsoft Academic Search is not yet ready to challenge Google Scholar for classicists, based simply on the content available.  But if the content continues to grow, it could become a strong challenger.  And I think that junior academics seeking to manage their online visibility and findability owe it to themselves to spend an hour logging on, claiming their author page, and adding any missing citations (you can even link to a full-text paper or add a .pdf).  Like, which I have discussed in this space, Microsoft Academic Search is a place you can be found, so it behooves you to make the information about you there as full and accurate as possible.