Archive for the ‘Resource reviews’ Category

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Resource Review: Digital Loeb Classical Library

October 14, 2014

Recently I spent some time at the the University of Cincinnati Classics Library playing with their trial of the Digital Loeb Classical Library. This new subscription resource became available in mid-September. I’ll start with some commentary and screenshots on how the Digital Loeb works, and follow with some more big picture thoughts.

As a note, there are many older, out-of-copyright Loeb volumes that have been freely available in digitized versions for some time. E. Donnelly’s Downloebables first made them easily findable, and Ryan Baumann’s Loebolus offers an alternative format.  I also recently ran across a fun tumblr blog that collects snippets of some of the antique translations that appear in these older Loebs.

What Digital Loeb Does

When a user arrives at the Digital Loeb site, the search box is prominent, but there are also browse options available at the left.  The user is given the choice of browsing Author, Greek Works, Latin Works, or Loeb Volumes (arranged by number).

Home - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-02-37

Each volume can thus be approached through a table of contents page, which reproduces the print volume’s table of contents, except that each section heading is clickable, and one can also search within the entire volume.

Euripides, Cyclops. Alcestis. Medea - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-19-24

Although I’ve just begun to explore the site, two things have already become clear: the site’s aesthetic is fairly elegant and generally pleasant, and the overall structure of the site very closely replicates the print versions of the Loeb volumes. The site is giving me the clear message that this is a digitized version of the existing Loeb Classical Library, not a re-envisioning of the LCL for an internet environment.

Librarians always skip basic search boxes and go straight to Advanced Search, so I did that. It defaults to a Boolean structure, with two boxes connected by AND but the option to add more boxes, and to change to OR or NOT.  The fields available to search are: Author, Editor/translator, Front and back matter, Main text, Notes, Recto, Verso, Work Title, and DOI (Digital Object Identifier). (I once wrote an intro to DOIs, if you need a refresher on that.)

Advanced Search - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-06-36

Any of the fields can be searched using Greek characters, using a handy pop-up keyboard; this makes searches of the Greek text quite easy. The user can also select a period to limit the search chronologically (only by 100 year intervals, i.e. 600 BC – 500 BC, and note that one cannot select more than 1 period – are authors whose writing lives took place in two different centuries out of luck?)

I did a complicated Boolean search to try to identify a remembered quotation for a friend, and blogged about it last week.

Below are the results of a simple author search for Sophocles. Works display in alphabetical order, and one can ‘facet’ the search (narrow it further) using the left column in results (although in this case the choices are not particularly useful).  The one user experience problem I had using the Digital Loeb happened here – I found it not obvious how to get to the actual text of one of the works in the search results. I first clicked on Show Results Within under the entry and got nothing (since I had done an author search, not searched the text of the works). It turned out I needed to double-click on title of the work to get to the actual text.

Search Results Sophocles - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-08-19

Another aesthetic touch I really liked – the green line on the screenshot above, and the green edge of the digital page of Sophocles’ Antigone below, carrying on the color-coding of the print Loeb volumes.

Once inside a work, the Tools at the bottom of the page allow the user to search for words within that text, again using English or the pop-up Greek keyboard.

SOPHOCLES, Antigone search within- Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-12-16

Below are the results of a ‘search within’ for a specific Greek word.  Note that it seems as though there is not any sophisticated lemma searching going on here – the search engine can only do exact character matches (and ignores accent). So this is useful if you are trying to place a Greek quotation, but not useful if, for example, you wanted to investigate all discussions of “mother” in Antigone – for that, TLG would be the right resource.

Search Results meter in Antigone- Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-13-31

If you want to make these results printer friendly, they are very pleasing-looking. (In general it didn’t seem possible to print more than one page of a text at a time, but I might have missed a way to do this, so please correct me if I’m wrong!) In addition to printing a page/search result/etc., one can save it (to a personal account, discussed in more detail below), email it, or share it on social media.  I tested sending search results to twitter, and they were visible to those not currently subscribed to Digital Loeb (thanks, @s_margheim and @magistrahf!)  It’s also easy to change the font size, a nice touch for those of us quickly approaching ‘reading glasses age’.

Search Results printer friendly - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 12-14-49

To navigate within a text, the experience very closely replicates paging through the print volume.  One can move forward or back one page at a time using arrows on the page images, or go to a specific page using the box at the top right corner of the screen (see below).  There isn’t, as far as I found, any easy way to jump to a specific line number within the text you’re looking at, however. I wanted to get to line 1060 of Aeschylus’ Suppliants at one point, and found myself guessing what page it would be in the volume by seeing what page I was on and how many lines appeared per page.  It later occurred to me that it would have been faster to ‘search within’ the text for “1060,” but that seems like a silly workaround to have to resort to when navigating by line number is such a fundamental way of interacting with a text (including print Loebs!) Note that the Green “LCL 145” below is hotlinked and will take you to the table of contents for the volume – I probably would not have stumbled across this early on, but instead learned it from the Frequently Asked Questions page at the site.

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants nav to TOC - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-08-58

Happily, the footnotes in the texts do take advantage of the digital environment and pop up if one clicks on them:

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants footnotes - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-31-21

Several additional features are available to users who sign up to have an account. The only information one is asked for is name, email address, and a password, so presumably one could remain pseudonymous if one wished.  The web site did not mind that I was on guest wifi at the University of Cincinnati and only using a trial of the site; I was able to create a personal account with no trouble, using a gmail address. Account features include creating bookmarks, saving searches, and creating annotations. One simply highlights a word or phrase in the text and can add a note.

AESCHYLUS, Suppliants annotation - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-15-17

The ability to share one’s annotations with other account-holders, and especially the ability to create groups with which one can share, makes annotation an excellent teaching tool on a campus with a subscription: all students could be asked to set up accounts, and the instructor could share annotations with the group or ask them to share amongst themselves.

My Loebs - Loeb Classical Library 2014-10-07 13-17-58

What Digital Loeb Does Not Do

The Digital Loeb does not do much if anything to advance the scholarly conversation around digital texts in classics. It’s a closed, subscription resource; as far as I can tell its texts cannot be downloaded for any purpose at all (for example, to do specialized scripted searches looking for patterns in style or content across texts, like Tesserae has done with Perseus texts). It hasn’t got lemma searching (like TLG). It hasn’t got grammatical or dictionary support for students (like Perseus). It’s not in dialogue with developing digital text projects involving multitext, annotation, or commentary (like Homer Multitext, the Digital Latin Library, Arethusa, Dickinson College Commentaries, and many other worthy projects I hope I don’t offend by not mentioning here). Now, was Digital Loeb required to do any of those things? Of course not. But is it appropriate to point out these limitations, and even mourn a lost opportunity? I think so. Interested in reading further commentary on these sorts of issues? See Greg Crane’s long essay from Feb. 2014 on the Digital Loeb in contrast with his vision of Open Philology; and another essay from Sept. 2014 now that Digital Loeb is available.

Should You Subscribe to Digital Loeb?

If you really like it, and you’re an individual, it is available at an individual price of $195 for the first year and $65 for each additional year.  You can figure out for yourself what it might cost to buy a full print set of Loebs and update as new volumes are released – my guess is you come out ahead even if you subscribe as an individual for 20 years! But there’s not any way for an individual to have trial access – you’d need to talk to a librarian, so if you’re not affiliated with an educational institution, that becomes tricky.  (If this is you, I am sure your local public library would be willing to apply for a free trial on your behalf, but I am sure many non-academic people would never think to ask.)

Pricing for institutions more complicated and less transparent, and one is encouraged to email directly for a quote for an individual library (or presumably consortium). Subscription and perpetual access plans are offered, which is nice for those with deep pockets and fatigue with the ‘annual subscription for digital resources’ problem. There is also a note that secondary schools are offered discounts for institutional pricing.  Anecdotally, what I have heard is “it’s expensive.”  What that means is of course highly variable.

If you’re a librarian reading this and pondering what your institution should do, it certainly makes sense to do a trial and beg, bribe, or threaten students (undergrads and graduate students) and faculty to give you feedback. I’d be most interested in hearing from students, plus faculty who teach the languages at the middle levels and/or have a special interest in pedagogy. My guess is a lot of people will like the Digital Loeb – it’s aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use, and lets you put the whole Loeb Library on your computer (maybe even in your hand – I wasn’t able to test it on a iPad, but I see no reason it wouldn’t work, and the effect would basically be an e-book – it’s just the right size for an iPad mini!). For the librarian, the choice is tricky – it’s a pretty product, but we mostly already get and will continue to get the print Loebs. Does the Digital Loeb add much but convenience and ease of finding passages? It doesn’t have lexical or grammatical tools; it does have quality modern translations, which the more digitally sophisticated Perseus or TLG lack. Does the price your institution has been quoted make this a good deal for you, or not?

 

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Update on Google Art Project / World Wonders / Cultural Institute

November 19, 2013

I posted some time ago about Google Art Project, in which Google did a “street view”-like walk through of international museums. They have also done this at archaeological sites, in a set of locations now called Google World Wonders.  Here’s a list of museums and sites relevant to the classical world that now have detailed access through these projects, now collected under the umbrella of Google Cultural Institute:

World Wonders

I may have missed some European cities with Roman-era stuff – there are a lot of “Old City of X” (especially in Spain) and I don’t know my Roman Europe well enough to know all the cities that may have visible architecture (if I’ve missed a doozy, please say so in comments!) There are a LOT more, from multiple parts of the world; if you teach world history or art history at all, it’s well worth a scan for classroom tools. Makes me want to plan some trips!

Art Project museums:

Note that not every display or object in a given museum is included; these are generally selections from the collections. There are 290 museums in total and I haven’t looked at all of them for relevance – there are lots of large city and national museums that probably include a few items from the ancient Mediterranean.  Coverage is thoroughly international, with especially good coverage of Europe, North America, and Asia. Have a look!

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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.

Recommendations
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?

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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.

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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 (http://academic.research.microsoft.com/)
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 Academia.edu, 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.

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Resource Review: The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies.

April 28, 2011

The UGA Libraries has The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies in the Main Library stacks (4th floor, DG209 .O94 2010) and the Classics Department also purchased a copy for the Alexander Room.  I looked it at a few months ago, but the recent Bryn Mawr Classical Review by Angela Kühr (which includes full publication data and the list of contributors and chapter titles, all 55 of them) prompted me to look again, and more closely.

As a librarian, I find “handbook” to be a fairly squishy category; my first question is always “what do they mean by handbook”?  One could quibble about this category for such a hefty book – it’s certainly bigger than my not-very-dainty hand, and heavy enough that it cannot be consulted one-handed; with the index it’s nearly 950 pages.  Plus there’s a foot (the colossal one of Constantine) on the cover!  Not a handbook at all, by my lights.  The copy on the front cover flap admits as much:

It is intended less as an encyclopaedia of the well-established, and more a research tool to aid the development of the subject: a guide that does not just inform but inspires.

The essays that make up the volume are diverse, divided into five sections (Tools, Approaches, Genres, History, and Ideas) and given broad titles like “Archaeology” (as Henry Hurst, the author, reviewer Kühr and I all note with sighs, a “Tool”), “Power” and “Spectacle” (both “History”) and “Roman Identity” (an “Approach”).  There’s no major topic glaringly absent to me, but then, over 950 pages and 55 essays it’s easy to cover a lot of ground.  The authors are an international bunch, and big-name senior scholars predominate.

Who is this book aimed at?  It is not really a reference work, although like many non-reference works one can consult it usefully for ideas and bibliography.  One might assign relevant sections of it to entry-level undergraduates, but I find the approaches the authors take tend to be nuanced and sophisticated; their observations are more suited to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.  More senior scholars will find it thought-provoking as well I suspect, a chance to step back and look at a big-picture overview of Roman Studies, not a synthetic one, but a mosaic of scholarly voices and approaches. I doubt many will read through the entire volume, preferring to dip into the essays of most relevance to one’s own work (as I myself have done in preparing this review.)

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Resource Reviews: Philosophy Bibliographies

April 11, 2011

Jenkins lists four notable general bibliographic works on classical philosophy; several of these are also described in Hans Bynagle, Philosophy: A Guide to the Reference Literature (Libraries Unlimited, 3rd ed., 2006) which we have at UGA (currently at the Repository, I hope soon to move to Main Reference), which is a useful volume in general but its coverage of ancient philosophy is much more limited than Jenkins’.

  • Bell and Allis, Resources in Ancient Philosophy: An Annotated Bibliography of Scholarship in English, 1965-1989 (1991), Main Library 6th Floor B171 .B46 1991.  This is a true annotated bibliography, with short introductions to each section and then a listing of sources with annotations.  Jenkins (no. 855) calls it “an excellent single source” that is “aimed primarily at college students” and notes its focus on recent works in English. Bynagle notes the limitations of the index.
  • Gill, Greek Thought (1995), Main Library 3rd Floor PA25 .G7 no. 25.  This book consists of four essays, on the topics of psychology, ethics, politics, and nature in ancient philosophy, making it a useful resource for those interested in the range of ancient thought on these topics.  Jenkins (no. 857) notes that coverage is from the mid-20th century onwards and there are “extensive bibliographical notes.”
  • Navia, Philosophy of Cynicism: An Annotated Bibliography (1995), Main Library 6th Floor B508 .N38 1995. This is a selective bibliography that contaisn popular as well as scholarly works and cover from the mid-19th century on.  Jenkins (no. 858) is critical of this work, suggesting that it “mingles the introductory, the advanced, and the banal”.
  • Donlan, ed., Classical World Bibliography of Philosophy, Religion, and Rhetoric (1978); we don’t have this at UGA – link is to WorldCat record. This is one in the series of bibliographies that compile essays that originally appeared in Classical World, so its coverage is not comprehensive.  Jenkins (no. 856) gives a useful summary of the topics covered and almost no critique, except to note the lack of an index.

Note I am beginning to collect online open-access scholarly bibliographies on topics in ancient philosophy at the Ancient World Open Bibliographies Wiki.

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