Monday, April 11, 2011
A lot of people believe that databases are static collections of information sources. Nothing could be further from the truth! Not only are databases always loading new issues of existing periodicals, but new editions of ebooks often replace older ones, too. On the downside, sometimes a database loses contracted access to a particular source, so occasionally things disappear when you don't want them to. (And an individual client library like ours has no real say in the matter.) But on the brighter side, many databases are modular. If a library can find the budget to add new segments, a particular database can get stronger and stronger.
JSTOR is just such a database. They usually add at least one new journal module a year, and as long as a client Library can afford the new initial and yearly renewal costs, the users of that Library will have access to the the swell "new stuff."
Here at Sawyer Library, we do feel that JSTOR (which stands for "journal storage" and which is the most varied academic journal database with the deepest backfile) is a very valuable resource. And we work hard to find the money to keep it as up-to-date as possible. Towards this end, we have just contracted to add Arts & Sciences IX--just as we added the previous A&S segments.
JSTOR operates in an unusual way. Although they promise 150 journals to be added by the end of next year, not even close to that amount of journals have yet been added. Here is the current title list. When you take a look, you see many subject areas and publishers and even multiple languages. That is the an important strength of this database.
A few things to remember about JSTOR:
1--Generally speaking, it is a retrospective database, with older issues, usually back to volume one, and sometimes going back to the 1700s. But most journals have an embargo of two to five years, so it is NOT the best source for new topics or coverage.
2--Because it is all about the stored images, it does not have the same kind of subject term indexing as you'll usually find in other databases like our EBSCOhost files. Therefore, getting precise searching can be tricky. Try clicking a few "Narrow by Discipline" categories below the search boxes. Or narrow to just "Articles" in another check box. The relevancy ranking of search algorithms in JSTOR work pretty well, but you can also experiment with looking for a key term in the title of the article and not just in the complete full-text. (Although looking in the abstract can be handy in many databases, many of the JSTOR journals are so old that they do not feature abstracts--the types of summaries at the start of almost all recent academic journals. So this technique is less useful here.)
Want to get more tips on searching in JSTOR? They have a video tutorial. (We always advise using the Advanced Search, which is why we start with the Advanced page.)
3--Although you CAN access JSTOR via the general web, you always want to hit the database through one of our proxyized links from our database lists or guides. That way you don't have to worry about blocked access to articles at every turn.
4--If you find an article you want, do not try to print from the first page of digital image. This will only get you a chopped up copy of the first page. Look for the PDF link, accept the license agreement, and then read or print or save the entire article.
Remember, although JSTOR doesn't have great currency, it has incredible depth and breadth, and is very oriented towards high-quality articles. So, if a teacher wants you to use "scholarly" journal articles, this database is usually a good one to consult.
[Find JSTOR in all of subject databases lists (except for eBooks), as well as in the A-Z list.]