Monthly Archives: September 2015

JStor Database Review

Overview

JStor is a large database housing a wide range of primary and secondary sources. No content is created by JStor, it is a means of searching for content produced by researchers. It includes full length scholarly articles in the following subjects: Anthropology, Asian Studies, Ecology, Economics, Education, Finance, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Political Science, Population Studies and Sociology. JStor has what is known as a ‘moving wall’ for the available date range of sources. This means the database will have most or all articles from a database up to five years ago. As time progresses, more recent articles become available for upload.

Searching JStor

There are a number of different ways a researcher can search the database. The first is a quick search from the home page. The search will pull all information from the entire database, and if the search terminology is not specific there can be hundreds of thousands of results. JStor is most effective when using the advanced search option. It is possible to search multiple fields such as whether the input is within the text of an article, an author, in the title, abstract, or caption. Under the advanced search, a researcher can narrow the search within the database to a few criteria. This can be an item type (article, book, review, etc), a specific date range, language, or publication title. It is also possible to only search publications within a specific discipline. Performing a search will show all results within the criteria set. Each result will provide the title, page numbers, author, publication, and date. There are two options when viewing a result: the researcher can view the result online or download a PDF to their computer.

Citing Sources

Each source within JStor has all the relevant information to site the particular source. The first page of every entry has a citation at the top of the page that includes the title, author, publication, page number, date, and number of pages.

History

Launching in 1995, JStor was conceived as a way to provide academia with a wide range of academic works being published. The founders would digitize articles by scanning each page as a TIFF document, compile the pages into a single file, and add then add the file to the ever-increasing database, which could then be accessed by institutions or individuals.

Reviews

Most reviews about JStor are positive. They agree that having access to such a rich database allows a researcher to save time trying to find sources for their work, and to have a much larger library of materials to work with. One of the main critiques is that, because the database is so large, searching the database with more generic terms will provide too many results to look through. They then said the addition of filtering results by subject matter has helped parse down the results in a more meaningful manner.

Access

JStor is a paid subscription to the database. There are two main options for gaining access to JStor: Institutional access or Individual access. Institutions can pay for access to the entire database or for specific journals. Individuals can purchase a one month or one year plan for access to the database for that time frame.

 

Digitization in Digital Humanities

A big part of Digital Humanities is the act of digitizing an object of some sort, whether it’s a book, photo, or work of art. There are a number of things to keep in mind while performing this act of digitization.

The first thing is to consider the best way to digitize a particular object. Is the object text only, such as a journal article? A photograph or map? A three dimensional sculpture? Each of these examples have different concerns when trying to capture it in the computer. All can be photographed, but several are required for anything with more than one side, and text recognition software can give errors. Journal articles and photos can be run through a scanner, but a sculpture cannot. A video of a sculpture can do wonders for that sculpture, but a recording of a book that it several hundred pages long is time consuming and has very few uses.

Another thing to consider when something is digitized is what is lost in this act. How can someone gauge the weight of an apple from a video or picture? A video can capture the  shape and color of the apple, as well as how it sounds when someone takes a bite, but what about it’s taste? A photo or video will allow someone to see the color, shape, and sound of an object, but anything tactile is lost. You cannot tell how heavy something is,  how hard or soft it is, or whether it is smooth or rough. The best you can get is to have someone describe these things through dialogue.

With so many things to get wrong, why bother to digitize anything? If done correctly, anything that is digitized can be manipulated to further someone’s understanding of the topic. Once that book is digitized in the right form, it can be run through character recognition software, and then can be played audibly through speech software for those who can’t or have trouble reading. Old photographs can be restored to their original form. Artists can create a video of their work, and edit the video to create a new work of art. Museums can digitize their collections, which can then be posted to the World Wide Web, exponentially increasing access to the exhibits.