JSTOR, from ITHAKA;
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Content JSTOR currently consists of three collections: Archival Journals, Current Journals, and Primary Sources. A fourth collection, Books at JSTOR, “an initiative to publish scholarly books online as part of JSTOR,” will launch this month. This review is based on the Archival Journals portion of the database, a collection of 1500-plus publications in 57 subjects across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences, ranging from African American Studies to Zoology (full collection descriptions and title lists are available at the JSTOR homepage, jstor.org).
Each title’s full back run is included in Archival Journals, and JSTOR has varying “moving walls” dividing archival journals from current ones (the wall is often five years but can be longer or shorter; it is identified in the publication information provided for each journal in the system).
Usability JSTOR has been upgraded as of August 2012. The main search page is now very clean and easy to use: there’s a single box to do a simple search, with a link to Advanced Search right beneath it, and below that is a linked list of the 57 disciplines by which users can browse the collection. Having used JSTOR in its many versions over the years, I’d say this is the clearest and best search interface they’ve ever had—kudos to them for the upgrade. At screen right is a column with a Help link and news updates.
Advanced Search allows queries of full text, author, item title, abstract, or caption. It also enables users to limit results to content they can access or to also include links to external material; and allows narrowing by item type, date, language, publication, and discipline. The system also now includes a Citation Locator, which lets researchers use bits and pieces of a citation to find a particular article. And JSTOR is now browsable by discipline, title, and publisher.
Users can create MyJSTOR accounts where they ccan save citations and searches, as well as track future additional content in particular journals via an electronic table of contents search. The PDFs can take a few seconds to load, which exposes my e-impatience more than any flaws in the system. Printing, though, is much easier than before; I could print the PDF in a couple seconds from within my browser.
I thought it would be interesting to try a wide variety of searches to see just how well JSTOR spans the disciplines, since at one time it was mostly known for being purely a humanities and social science resource. I tried the following searches with the following results:
“Guide for the Perplexed and Meister Eckhart”: 13 citations from Jewish Studies Quarterly, The Journal of Religion, Law and Contemporary Problems, and Isis, among other journals.
“Vitamin D and asthma”: 793 citations, the most recent of which was the full text of a January 2012 health update.
“Youssef Chahine and politics”: 57 citations from South Central Review, African Studies Review, Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, and The American Historical Review, among other titles.
“Psychic archaeology: 2,354 citations, including “The Whole truth about the Theosophical Society and its Founders,” a “Bristol Selected Pamphlet” from 1882.
“Shunga and Tokugawa Japan”: 37 citations from Monumenta Nipponica, Journal of Japanese Studies, Estudios de Asia y Africa, and Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, among others.
“Psychologism and necessity”: 1309 citations, the latest being from Human Studies, Spring 2012.
“(railway OR railroad) and (cost structures))”: 18,792 citations.
“Food and affection”: 29,890 citations, my favorite of which is, “Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Slow Food,” from Anthropologica.
“((pascal’s triangle) and (fibonacci numbers))”: 227 citations.
The breadth and depth of what’s here is obvious. The railway/railroad and cost structures results are particularly mind-boggling. But what can be somewhat difficult is narrowing search results effectively, despite the options JSTOR now offers for doing so. When I scanned the results in several of the huge results sets above it was not easy to see what I needed to do differently to cut them down. Adding a term lost quality citations, and limiting by date cut out a long range view of the subject: unnecessary for some subjects but essential for others.
When users view the citation for an article in the search results, JSTOR transforms the news column at screen right into a “more options” section, with links to references from the article and other JSTOR items by the author in the database; and related items, items citing the current article, and other material by the author in Google Scholar. It also throws in links for journal tracking, getting an RSS feed to the publication, and a link to the Copyright Clearance Center in case an educator wants to use an article in course materials. This is a 21st century electronic treasure trove.
The content is so good! There’s a reason why every graduate student and most every undergraduate knows JSTOR if they know any research database, and it’s the content. But now I can also say that the database will become known for its ease of use in searching, finding, and manipulating records. For example, not only can users email, save, and export citations from JSTOR with a single click, now it’s also possible to track citations with a single click and to be sent an e-mail whenever that item is cited.
Pricing Pricing for JSTOR depends upon the collections to which a library subscribes, as well as the type of library. The permutations and combinations are too numerous to include here, but the fees for all library and institution types are available at: about.jstor.org/content/how-subscribe.
Verdict JSTOR is much better than before. They’ve smoothed out most of the bumps that arose in evolving versions, kept the best parts, and even improved upon them with technological enhancements that add to the file, but don’t obscure it. Reviewing this file makes me very curious to see just what Books at JSTOR has to offer.