Critical analysis of Historical Websites
Critical analysis of Historical Websites
There are many historical databases provided by Universities today. So much so, it is often more likely to find the exact replica of a particular historical document on the web than to physically go to a library expecting to find a book pertaining the same topic. In fact, it has become common practice for many Library officials to even direct students doing research directly to their websites. Historical websites today provide information in almost every form from scholarly abstracts, to old newspaper articles, to actual audio bites of interviews with historical figures.
We obviously live in a more advanced era; but just like there were disadvantages in the past deemed ordinary by our ancestors, our children will most likely view the way we operate today as passe. This poses the question, what are our faults? What are the weakness, in the most popular research databases today, that could improved on? How accredited are these sites, should they be, and what bias do they hold? For the purpose of attempting to thoroughly answer these questions, I will analyze four popular, and accredited, historical websites. The historical databases I will be examining are as follows: ProQuest, History Center Resource Group U.
S. A. , History Cooperative, and ABC Clio Historical Abstracts and America: History & Life. All of these sites have been approved by Florida State University for substantial sources for historical reference, as well as other University Libraries. For the purpose of testing the websites’ historical value, I came up with three key search terms I would use to judge all four of the websites. These terms are: Aristotle, American Revolution and Al Quada. I chose these terms because I felt they best exemplified a time before the father companies of these sites existed, or they measure the quality of current even efficiency.
ProQuest Company is stationed in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The company’s main focus is in microfilm and electronic publishing. The company was initially founded by Eugene Power under the title of “University Microfilms in 1938. The company preserved precious British Museum articles on microfilm, as well as published dissertations. In continuous production of publications since 1938, with so many dissertations, ProQuest has been officially declared as the U. S. off-site repository of the Library of Congress. During World War II, University Microfilm assisted the Office of Strategic Service by filming maps and European newspapers.
In 1980, the company made the transition from microfilm to storing databases on CD-ROMs. It then went through a nuance of owners and names until finally changing its name to ProQuest Information and Learning in 2001. Upon first viewing the ProQuest database online, I was forced to acknowledge the simplicity of the page. The search bars were easy to use, providing the option of searching through different databases with categories of everything from dissertations, news papers and business articles to interdisciplinary and criminal justice periodicals.
They also had database searches provided solely to do research on gender issues, race relations and global news. I’m certain all of these databases provide information on a vast range of subjects dating as far back as 1938, when the company first originated. When I punched in the key word Aristotle, my search found 4451 sources, most of which were news paper articles dated in the present new year. The American Revolution found me 3724 references all ranging from newspapers to dissertations. Finally, Al-Qaeda found me 21543 results.
The patterns of these numbers showed me that ProQuest was more bias towards politics and current event in America, even though it’s categorized as a historical database. Also, as I would later find out its results were monumental and almost never ending compared to the results of the other sites. The large majority of ProQuests material comes from news paper articles, which gives it a disadvantage when its compared to other site producing scholarly essays. The fact remains ProQuest has a seemingly endless quantity of reputable sources.
ProQuest represents big business in scholarly society, and in that way it drastically contrasts sites like History Cooperative. History Cooperative is a nonprofit humanities resource that provided scholarly historical journals for the purpose of study. This site was established by the combined efforts of The University of Illinois Press, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians and the National Academies Press. At first glance, I have to say that History Cooperative is the simplest and most vast database I’ve ever seen, second only to Wikipedia, which lacks scholarly accreditation.
It appears that History Cooperative provides more access the largest variety of respected American Journals than any of the other sites. I begin my analysis by searching the first key term, Aristotle. Many scholarly essays pertaining to Aristotle’s theories come up. I click on the first link titled Hairy Women and Naked Truths: Gender and the Politics of Knowledge in Aristotle’s Masterpiece, by Mary E. Fissell, to see how relative the article is to my search. I look at the article and find it is more an educated response to one of Aristotle’s literary works than any concrete historical information about the man himself.
In light of this, I must acknowledge the source still holds some historical relevance and could be used for more in-depth analysis of the man in a research paper. When I look up American Revolution, I get Wheat, War, and the American Economy during the Age of Revolution, by Brooke Hunter. Again, this is another article that takes a specific part of history and goes in-depth with the topic. Finally, I search for Al-Qaeda searching for it four different ways and only finding results when I type it in as shown.
Even then only one article pops up, titled ‘Chaos on the Earth’: Subjective Truths versus Communal Unity in Islamic Law and the Rise of Militant Islam, Indira Falk Gesink. The website overall still proves to be historically relevant, just not up on current events. The site also appears bias in the sense that most of its information comes from authors publishing in journals to display their literary prowess, or attain scholarly recognition. The site didn’t appear to have factually informative information with the student in mind, but more like scholarly interpretations written for the purpose of being viewed by other’s with PHDs.
This site is not for someone attempting to find basic information. It has articles that carryout close and critical responses assuming that much is already known about the topic. On these grounds, I do get a very liberal minded nature from the site in the sense that it promotes free thought. Though this leaves room for bias pertaining a particular topic of search, in most cases, except for the Al Qada search, there is a vast amount of sources to counter a bias view. This leaves the researcher free to interpret their own understand from a much more educated and open view of the topic.
The History Resource Center: U. S. is a database formed by the Gale Group. Now known as Thomas Gale, the company is run by Gordan T. Macomber and specializes in research and educational publishing for public and academic libraries, schools and businesses. Its full text magazine and newspaper database, Info Trac is the same search tool that powers The History Resource Center: U. S. The site is considered by many respected scholastics to be a reputable source for references on religion, history and social science. The site is also most notably recommended by History Channel. com.
When I first search for Aristotle, a long list of about twenty two sources come up the first one being, Aristotle Versus Plato in Ancient Greece. History in Dispute, by Mathew E. Kenney. The American Revolution search produced two-hundred results the first of which was The Impact of the American Revolution on Britain. History in Dispute, by Keith Krawczynski. Finally my search for Al-Qaeda produced ten results, the first of which was Suspected Terrorist Mounir el-Motassadeq Convicted in Germany, February 19, 2003. This was located in a journal titled Historic World events.
This greatly impressed me about the website. On top of this, I received no sense of bias while reviewing this web page. All of the articles were heavily referenced, and many had the feel of being analytical while at the same time very informative with the facts. The final site I viewed diverged from the pack completely in its ability to inform. ABC-CLIO was founded in 1953 by Eric Boehm. Its first publication was produced in 1955 the company is mostly known for its main database America: History and Life and their Historical Abstracts database.
The company does not a have a long known history pertaining to America, but most of its historical information is American History based. Despite these credentials, Florida State and many other Universities approve of this website as one of their key source of reputable information. The truth is, there was no in-depth analysis done for this page, because it was more of a retail site than an a location for study. When I entered the key terms into the search bars, publications and dissertations were not viewable without buying the entire article.
This contrast between the other web pages make one wonder if this is a sign of the past or the future. It also makes me appreciate site like ProQuest and the History Resource Center, for being so efficient, for free. In sum, after comparing these sites, I can’t help but think that ABC-CLIO needs to be put out of business and ProQuest might be leaving the competition behind. The sites that do produce works, are all admirable and respectable in their nature to produce as many knowledgeable sources as possible, even if the views are contrasting.
The advancement of ideals like this is the way of the future. It can always be argued that corporations like History Cooperative are valuable because they perform a humanitarian service by being non-profit. It can even be argued that the History Resources Center: U. S. outmatches ProQuest in quality. But, it can’t be denied that ProQuest unfairly out does all of the competition based on the number of sources it produces. This idea of quality verses quantity is a classic debate. But, in the case of ProQuest, it must acknowledged that Quality has a quantity all of its own.
Work Cited ABC-CLIO http://serials. abc-clio. com. proxy. lib. fsu. edu/active/go/ABC-Clio-Serials_v4. 2. Accessed Jan 6. 2007 History Cooperative http://www. historycooperative. org. proxy. lib. fsu. edu/ Accessed Jan. 6 2007. History Resource Center U. S. http://galenet. galegroup. com. proxy. lib. fsu. edu/servlet/HistRC/form? origSearch=true&n=10&l=1&items=0&locID=tall85761. Accessed Jan. 7, 2007 ProQuest. http://proquest. umi. com. proxy. lib. fsu. edu/login. Accessed Jan 7 2007.