- Citations to secondary sources from research articles published in the American Historical Review between 2010 and 2015 were gathered by hand. All citations were searched by the author for representation in six specific research platforms: Historical Abstracts, America: History and Life, JSTOR, ArticlesPlus (Summon), WorldCat, and Google Scholar.
- This dataset accompanies a study that seeks to contribute to a clearer understanding of the discovery ecosystem in academic research libraries. Using historical literature as a case study, extensive citation analysis is employed to both reveal characteristics of secondary historical literature as well as to test a broad disciplinary discovery environment that includes six specific search platforms. By enhancing our understanding of where and how specific types of resources are –or are not—discoverable, as the case may be, this study can provide evidence to better inform the appropriate role and placement of various search platforms in a user’s process.
This citation analysis drew upon all secondary literature that was cited in the American Historical Review (AHR) during a six-year period, from 2010 through 2015. The AHR is the official publication of the American Historical Association (AHA) and, as stated on its website, has served as “the journal of record for the historical profession in the United States since 1895.” Additionally, the AHR represents all subfields of history in its research articles and reviews of new scholarship. For this study, the author gathered citations from research articles only, excluding reviews. For the purposes of testing the library discovery environment, the author aimed to include citations that a researcher would be likely to identify by using library research tools, as opposed to archival finding aids. Recognizing that some tools included in this study, such as JSTOR and Historical Abstracts, do not index archival sources, the author decided to focus on published and secondary materials. All citations to archival sources, government information, and other unpublished manuscript materials were excluded. Additionally, citations to newspaper and general or popular press articles published prior to 1900 were excluded. Citations to entire periodicals, as opposed to articles, were also excluded. Books from all date ranges were included. Citations to non-scholarly newspaper and magazine articles published after 1900 were included. Citations to published primary sources were also included in the population of citations, as one may reasonably expect to locate them in a research library setting.
The resulting population comprised 22,572 citations. After separating out duplicate citations, the total number was 19,937. Using a random number generator, the de-duplicated list of citations was re-ordered in order to select a random sample of 400, which affords a confidence level of 95% and a confidence interval of 5.
The first step in analysis was to characterize each citation according to format, publication date, and language. Secondly, the author searched for all citations in the sample in the 6 different search platforms listed above.
The primary question for each database included in the study was how comprehensively it represented the population of AHR citations, as represented by the random sample selected for this study. In order for a given citation to count as present in a particular database, it had to be represented in the format in which it was cited. For example, if a search for a cited book turned up only a dissertation, with the same author and very similar title, the analysis found that the citation was not present. For book chapters cited with authors and titles, it was not necessary for chapters to have their own records in order to be counted as present but it was necessary for them to be discernible among search results as chapters, such as in a table of contents listing.
In order to expedite the search process, the author searched Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life simultaneously on the EBSCO platform. For all of the platforms except Google Scholar, the author performed advanced searches, entering both title and author information for each citation. All searching took place between February and May of 2017. The results presented here reflect the content available to search in each platform at the time of investigation.