The new AnthroSource is fantastic! Here’s why I won’t be using it.

I haven’t yet seen any official announcement from the AAA about the change,1 but if you now click on the “Login to use AnthroSource now” link from the top of the AAA website, you will get directed to this glorious webpage. Those who know me will be surprised to learn that I am not being the slightest bit ironic when I say the page is glorious. It truly is. Not only does it look great, but at long last searching through the back catalog of AAA journals is simple and easy. Even better, when you find something you can quickly access the content you are looking for without any hassles. If you are an AAA member you will have access to that content as part of your membership fee and won’t have to use your school’s VPN to get the content you want. Bravo to Wiley and AAA for pulling this off, it really should make AAA membership that much more attractive for everyone.

Having said that, I probably won’t be using this portal for my own research purposes. The first reason for this is that AnthroSource limits you to just two search options: you can search an individual journal, or you can through the entire catalog of all AAA journals. I almost never want to conduct either of these searches. The AAA archive is great, but I prefer to conduct narrower searches. For instance I might want to exclude archaeology journals, and journals focusing on Latin America and Europe, without confining myself to just one journal. Secondly, there are a number of Wiley anthropology journals not included in the AAA’s catalog that I would like to search along with the other cultural anthropology journals. These include: Anthropology Today, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Oceania, and Social Anthropology. Third, AnthroSource doesn’t currently offer an advanced search interface. That means you can’t limit the date range for searches or restrict your keyword search to the abstract or title of articles, etc.

Fortunately, it is already possible to conduct such a search via Wiley’s Advanced Search Page. All you have to do is list the titles of journals in quotes, separated by the word “OR” and select “Publication Titles” from the drop down menu. For instance, you could copy the entire block of text below and paste it in the “Publication Titles” field to search six of the leading anthropology journals on Wiley, including two that aren’t in AnthroSource:

“American Anthropologist” OR “American Ethnologist” OR “Anthropology Today” OR “The Australian Journal of Anthropology” OR “Cultural Anthropology” OR “Journal of Linguistic Anthropology” OR “Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute”

You can add additional titles if you like, or replace this with your own list of journals – just be sure that the title matches how the journal is listed in the Wiley database. If there is an upper limit to the number of journals you can list in a single search, I’ve not yet encountered it. If you are logged in you can save your searches from the advanced search screen, which not only saves you time, but also allows you to create “search alerts.” Neither of these features are currently available for AnthroSource. Unfortunately, once you find what you are looking for this way, even if you are logged in to AnthroSource, the advanced search interface won’t unlock AAA content for you. If your institution doesn’t offer access to Wiley content you may find yourself having to search for it again via AnthroSource in order to get the PDF.

I still dream of a single search engine that will search all my favorite Anthropology journals (and only those journals), no matter whether they are on Wiley, JSTOR, or somewhere else. For instance, I’d love to add Current Anthropology and HAU to the above search, but there is currently no way (that I know of) to do this as a single search. Still, I think such narrow disciplinary searches can yield important results that you might not find on Google Scholar. For this reason I’m glad to see AnthroSource getting a shiny new look, even if I won’t be using it.

  1. There is an announcement on the site from before AnthroSource went live, but nothing (that I can find) actually announcing the launch. UPDATE: An email announcement went out the day after I posted this. (This kind of thing happens to me a lot, living in a time zone that is twelve hours ahead of the US.) 

9 thoughts on “The new AnthroSource is fantastic! Here’s why I won’t be using it.

  1. As editors, we got word today that the launch email is en route. This update is much needed. I think it will hopefully bring traffic to smaller journals like North American Dialogue.

  2. I have always been puzzled about why someone would use AnthroSource instead of Google-Scholar. I guess if you want only anthropology (and an odd subset of anthropology, as Kerim notes), and don’t care about other disciplines, AnthroSource might be useful. But why would one want to ignore other disciplines?

  3. Surely knowing something about what one’s own colleagues are saying on a subject is a good starting point for research and doesn’t preclude looking elsewhere as well? The problem is that AnthroSource as it now exists doesn’t really provide that information, unless you only care about work done in the US, which seems to be a strange way to define the discipline. But Google Scholar is not a perfect solution either. I find that Google Scholar search results have a very strange notion of “relevance” with regard to the research I conduct. Not only does it exclude a lot of relevant search results I find using more specialized search engines like Wiley and JSTOR, but it is also much more “noisy.” For instance, when searching for research on indigenous Taiwanese one gets a lot of hits for medical research, but a recent anthropological paper on the subject might not show up. I’ve found ways of creating filters to force Google Scholar to be more relevant (e.g. excluding a lot of medical terms from my search), but it isn’t perfect. One needs to conduct multiple searches on multiple search engines, and specialized search engines have an important place in such a multi-pronged strategy.

  4. Good comments all. I do, however, note one missing possibility, the use of human networks extended by the Internet. Personally, I am enjoying a very good day because searching for interesting material for a piece I am working on for the Journal of Business anthropology, I turned to the AnthroDesign list, described the project, and asked what my colleagues there would recommend. The results include two important and stimulating articles that I would never have discovered with an automated search for “x y z anthropology.” I have had similar experiences with queries posted on SocNet, where social network analysts hang out. Why be confined by a model that assumes a lone scholar searching the stacks of an infinitely extended by digital technology library? Why not begin by identifying interesting people working on similar topics and start by asking them what they would recommend.

  5. I consider it a fun challenge to get the results I need out of Google-Scholar. In fact, it is my favorite displacement activity. I don’t find much of interest in the anthropological literature on the topics I work on these days. I do occasionally wonder “what are anthropologists saying about topic X?”, but it is more about satisfying my curiosity than about finding useful papers. In the process of doing wider searches on G-Scholar, relevant work by anthropologists does turn up (e.g., that’s how I found David Mosse’s papers on collective action and inequality), so I don’t feel I am avoiding or being shut out of the anthropological literature. I guess if one has a strong disciplinary orientation then it makes a difference about the usefulness or biases of AnthroSource. By my reaction is, “Who cares?” I am addicted to Google-Scholar.

  6. @John – I agree completely that networks like this are great for new ideas, new works, and for many things! But for me, large official, or semi-official, networks have been a complete bust. I have tried setting up things like this in the past (one for Mesoamericanists in the northeast, one for archaeologists working on early urbanism), and found mostly apathy and a lack of willingness to participate or create. I joined H-Urban (from the H-Net series of networks in history), and for a couple of years it was interesting intellectually, with good discussions about many issues and lots or recommendations about publications and ideas. But it has really declined in the past couple of years. The last few queries I have posted, looking for ideas, went unanswered and most posts are notices looking for people to participate in sessions on things like masculinities in nineteen century Eastern European cities. My own informal networks are very useful and productive, but these tend to be small groups of colleagues working on a single project or closely related projects.

    I wish there existed the kinds of networks you mention that relate to my interests. Here is a question for the sociology of science people: why do some disciplines or topics have productive official, or semi-official online networks, while other disciplines are barren in this area ?

  7. Michael, I didn’t at all have in mind “large official or semi-official networks.” True to the traditions of social network analysis my focus here is on informal, personal networks. In the case I described, I find myself at the intersection of several networks, academic anthropologists I have encountered here and on Keith Hart’s Open Anthropology Cooperative, business and design anthropologists with whom I have built connections by attending an EPIC conference in Tokyo, International Conferences on Applications of Anthropology in Business in China, sociologists I have met on SocNet and Sociological Imagination, mathematicians I have gotten to know through other channels. I regularly scan sites like Arts&Letter Daily, Quanta, and Nautilus, subscribe to John Brockman’s Edge site and have my ZITE account set to point me to stories in fields like art, photography, and medieval history. None of these connections provide the deep dive that Google Scholar can help with once I know what I’m looking for. What they do for me is support what pilots call “situational awareness,” a sense of what is going on around me to which a conventional disciplinary focus would blind me. I frequently discover that all sorts of people are thinking about topics that my anthropologist friends think are specific to anthropology and have interesting things to say about them. I think about my model Victor Turner and how his search for ideas led him to sources like Norse sagas and Dante, I.W. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki, Freud and Kennth Burke as well as Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown and other British anthropologists.

  8. One big advantage of Anthrosource over Google Scholar as that (for AAA members at least) one can have full text access in the same place one is searching. That said, a super annoying feature of the new anthrosource (at least last week) was that older articles are listed at the top level of the search as “2009” – the moment when they were digitized or published online. Obviously this is fixed if one clicks on the article, but it’s useful to know the date in deciding whether to click.

  9. Yeah….I pointed that out to the Anthrosource crew back in 2006 or so, but they clearly didn’t care to fix it.

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