Reference eReviews: March 1, 2010

Asia-Studies Full-Text
International Information Services; www.asia-studies.com

CONTENT Updated weekly, this scholarly collection is made up of over 12,000 full-text reports from and about Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas’ Pacific Rim countries, and the Pacific Islands. Reports are available in PDF format, with content licensed and indexed from academic and e-journals (all those included are peer-reviewed), institutional publishers, and think tanks from around the world; most of the content comes from Asian Pacific-based sources. The main service covers the topics of business, economics, and social sciences in Asian Studies for 55 countries. Another integral part of the database covers humanities topics in Asian Studies.

USABILITY The Asia-Studies Full-Text (ASFT) main screen opens with a rather faint toolbar for Home, Search, About, Subscribe, and Contact at screen top. Below that toolbar are links to the Asia Pacific Economic Corporation, the Asian Development Bank, the East-West Center, and the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. At screen left are links to Browse Asia-Studies Humanities, Search All Studies, Highlights, and Browse Studies by Providers (among them, the American Chamber of Commerce PRC; Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation; Asian Development Bank; Australia South Asia Research Centre; China Media Research; China Perspectives, CEFC; and the University of Hong Kong).

Beneath those links are various Statistical resources: Key Indicators (an annual statistical publication of the Asian Development Bank), Multi-Country Studies (just what it says), and Asia-Wide Statistics (including the Asian Development Outlook and Asia Economic Monitor). Below these are links to “Sign Up for Free Asia-Studies Monthly” and “Sumit [sic] My Working Paper or Study for Publication on Asia-Studies Monthly and Asia-Studies.com.”

To the right of this column, taking up most of the real estate on the screen, is a welcome statement, a place for current announcements, and then a long list of Current Topics for several months (at this writing, topics for January 2010, December 2009, and November 2009 are included, with a total of about 200).

I started with a Search All Studies search. The search screen includes a single-search box with a drop-down choice of “all of the words,” “any of the words,” “the exact phrase,” or “boolean” [sic]. Below the search box are check boxes for “Stemming,” “Fuzzy searching,” and “Phonic searching.” Underneath that is another drop-down to sort either by hits or by size. All these terms, along with helpful tips for searching, are described in a Search Help section that searchers link to from the bottom of the active search screen. (I’d strongly advise highlighting the Search Help link better in upcoming releases.)

I did an “all of the words” search for “avian flu” and got 310 documents, including the article “The Avian Flu and Its Implications” from a July 2006 Economic Issue of the Day report from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (this had a relevance score of 100 percent at the top of the list), as well as a 2005 report, “Designing e-Government for the Poor,” from the Asian Development Bank (this had a relevance rank of one percent, and danged if I could find a reason why it was included).

Going through the list was tiresome because I could advance by only ten records at a time, so I had to advance about 30 times to get to the end of the list. Having a “jump to record number” feature would improve access to content considerably.

Next I compared some content to that of the Bibliography of Asian Studies (BAS, quod.lib.umich.edu/b/bas). Both databases index the Harvard Asia Pacific Review, the International Journal of Korean Studies, and the Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs. My keyword search for “rice production” and “Vietnam” in BAS found 39 results; in ASFT the search “rice production Vietnam” (using stemming) netted 723 documents. My Advanced Search of BAS for “forests” and “Malaysia” found 101 results; the search “forests Malaysia” in ASFT yielded 488 documents. In both cases, the materials were pertinent to the subject searched.

PRICING ASFT is available on an annual subscription basis, with IP address access and/or password access. Subscription cost is based on type and size of institution and its geographic location. For academic institutions, the price ranges from $495 a year (for 1000 or fewer FTE students) to $1,395 a year (for more than 6000 FTE students).

Community and junior colleges receive a 20 percent discount on those prices, and high schools get a special flat rate of $295 per year. Other institutions and private companies are billed based on the number of employees, ranging from $395 a year to $895 a year.

BOTTOM LINE For design and searchability, ASFT gets an eight; the screens have an unreasonable number of typos, the search screen needs to have Help featured more prominently, and having to page through results ten at a time is tedious and outdated.

However, for content it gets a ten, mainly for amassing so much statistical and analytical material about an area of study that needs much more scholarly research access than is otherwise available. So, overall, the product rates a nine, with my strong urging that the spelling mistakes be cleaned up and a “jump to” feature added for results.

Even taking into account the few system glitches, I urge libraries serving researchers in Asian studies to take a good, long look at ASFT. The content here adds appreciably to what’s readily available elsewhere, and the reasonable cost will bring it within the grasp of many.


Author Information
Cheryl LaGuardia is the Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers and producers can contact her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu

 

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Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.