Bibliographic Database

Background

Between 1971 and 1986, the History of Education Society (UK) published a series of Guides to Sources in the History of Education, along with lists of theses completed in the field (annually, 1969-1990).  With the opportunities afforded by information and communication technology, it is now possible to revive and bring up to date such resources and to make them much more flexible and adaptable in use. Moreover, it is highly desirable in an increasingly competitive funding environment for Learned Societies to seek new ways to keep their fields of study at the forefront of scholarly attention and to offer services so as confirm their place at the heart of academic endeavour.

On this basis, we decided to approach the History of Education Society (UK) with a proposal entitled Exe Libris: The UK History of Education Society On-line Bibliography (in association with the University of Exeter). This sought:

  1. to revive the provision by the Society of an updatable bibliographical service, so as to help members keep track of significant but scattered secondary sources as they appear, and
  2. to make accessible to scholars a substantial bibliographical database which we have accumulated over the last ten years.

In regard to the second aim, as part of an earlier set of projects, we had already compiled a card index of just under 3,000 articles on the history of education published in the leading historical journals of a general kind founded or edited in the British Isles between 1939 and 2005. Included also was a range of specialist titles including all those concentrating on the history of education. In total 56 journals were covered by the card index. The entries include all articles, editorials and obituaries, but exclude book reviews and ‘notes and news’ items. Furthermore, each entry was analysed and coded according to categories relating to: periodisation (seven eras from antiquity to the present); geographical parameters (comparative, British, imperial and other countries); and specific subject areas (94 categories organised around 19 broad themes). Similar categorization facilitated an analysis of the scale and patterning of UK journal articles covering the history of education.

The pilot project

Screenshot of Exe LibrisFrom November 2007 until April 2008, the History of Education Society (UK) generously sponsored a pilot project through which the card-index entries pertaining to History of Education (founded 1972) and History of Education Society Bulletin (founded 1968, continued as History of Education Researcher from 2003) were transposed into an electronic format, and a web-designer was employed to create a searchable, on-line bibliographical resource. This new search engine is now accessible through the Society’s website:

It allows users to locate articles on the basis of the following criteria: author; title; keyword(s); historical period; geography; specialist area; cross-referenced specialist area; articles comprising bibliographies; articles on historiography of education; journal; and date or date range of publication. Furthermore, because we are keen that the bibliographical resource should do more than traditional search engines, we have provided a number of additional features:

  • First, we have developed a Tag Cloud derived from an index of keywords extracted from the titles of the entries. This visual representation of the data, which illustrates the popularity of keywords through varied font sizes, provides an innovative exploratory route by which users can access the content of the database.
  • Second, each search result provides the opportunity to export the bibliographical information to a citation manager (e.g. EndNote Export) and is accompanied by links to further information sources that might provide the full-text of an article (e.g. http://scholar.google.com).
  • Third, the search engine is compatible with ‘pocket PCs’ and ‘Smart telephones’ to ensure easy access to ‘ICT-literate’ scholars wherever they are.
  • Fourth, we have provided a number of interactive features which mean that users are able to provide personal evaluations of the entries via comment boxes and a rating system; to provide suggestions for further reading and research links; to propose corrections to entries; to re-code entries using the original categories; and to code entries using new categories. We are aware that our categorization of articles is subjective and potentially controversial, and for this reason, it is exciting to be able to provide users with the opportunity to provide their own additional categorizations.

e