From the Boston Globe: 

 The turn to online research is narrowing the range of modern scholarship, a new study suggests.  Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow of the Boston Globe reports about a study that indicates that “the boom in online research may actually have a “narrowing” effect on scholarship. James Evans, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, analyzed a database of 34 million articles in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and determined that as more journal issues came online, new papers referenced a relatively smaller pool of articles, which tended to be more recent, at the expense of older and more obscure work. Overall, Evans says, published research has expanded, due to a proliferation of journals, authors, and conferences.”  Here we see the biggest dilemma facing digitization efforts.  Will it ever be enough?  Access to journal articles is a wonderful result of the Internet age, but at what expense?  I can honestly say that I am guilty of taking the easy way out in research and doing brief pointed online searches through JSTOR and LISA and being completely satisfied with the results.

What does this mean for the academic library?  Well, in short, we need to remind our users that not everything is available electronically and that perfectly good (perhaps better) resources are to be found in print.  We also need to be aware of the newest digital services and the scholarly journal compilation databases and what they do or do not index.

Perhaps this study can be a call to arms for the digitization movement.  It just might spark a new generation of librarians and information professionals to remedy this situation by increasing the number of publications that are available online.  Maybe it could spark a digital TOC movement.  If journals all included their tables of contents, researchers would be able to find more information from a more diverse group of sources.

The link:  http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/11/23/group_think/

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