Journals of the Century

Scott Walter (Washington State University, Pullman, Washington)

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Walter, S. (2004), "Journals of the Century", Collection Building, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 202-203.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

What are the core journals in a particular field of study? What does it mean to be a core journal? How does one know which journals are core, i.e. which are the journals that, as one contributor to this collection wrote, “we would never cut”? These are the basic questions behind the highly‐ambitious Journals of the Century project, which brings together the collected wisdom of 20+ subject specialists in the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and other fields.

The essays in this collection are organized into six clusters of related disciplines:

  1. 1.

    The helping professions.

  2. 2.

    Music, museums, and methodists.

  3. 3.

    Business and law.

  4. 4.

    War and peace.

  5. 5.

    Physical sciences and engineering.

  6. 6.

    Life, health and agriculture.

While some of these groupings seem natural (e.g. placing education alongside social work and psychology among “The helping professions”), some are more forced (e.g. placing music alongside anthropology and religion as part of the cutely‐titled cluster, “Music, museums, and methodists”). Regardless of how the materials are organized, however, there is clearly something for everyone in this collection.

While it is clear that Stankus exercised a loose editorial hand, there are themes that appear throughout this collection. Chief among these is the simple mandate to identify the most significant journals in the literature of a given discipline over the past century. In many cases, these are truly “journals of the century,” in that they have been published continuously for over 100 years (e.g. American Historical Review). In others, they are the journals that we recognize today as “Tier One” journals, or journals with a high impact factor (e.g. Sociology of Education). The most useful features of this collection are the actual listings of core journals in a variety of fields and the discussion by contributors about the criteria used to identify these titles.

Another useful feature of the collection is the introduction provided to the literature of different fields. Some essays, for example, address the issue of audience as a factor in determining which titles belong on a core list in a field that must encompass the interests of both scholars and practitioners. Others include summaries of the findings of earlier studies of journals in a given field. Finally, several essays address the problematic nature of ISI citation indexes as a foundation for analysis of the literature of a field. All readers will benefit from these discussions, which are spread throughout the collection.

The very fact that these discussions are spread throughout the collection, however, also reflects the greatest weakness of the Journals of the Century project, i.e. the lack of consistency in the construction of the essays. Stankus notes in his introduction that each author was given “considerable leeway” in his or her approach to the task of assembling a list of journals. As a result, there is a wide variation in the treatment that each area receives, and in the degree to which common themes and issues are clearly identified for the reader. For example, the chapter on education is fewer than ten pages, while the chapter on music is nearly three times that length. The chapters on music and history include discussions of pedagogical approaches to the field, while the chapter on the visual arts specifically excludes art education as a topic of study. Finally, there is no overview essay to tie these disparate pieces together into a true whole – a task that is ultimately left to the reader. Without question, some variation is to be expected in the treatment of the literature of widely different fields, but the collection would have been strengthened, as a whole, by a stronger editorial hand.

This concern aside, however, this is a collection that will appeal to librarians in a wide variety of fields. Moreover, it will stimulate debate over the titles that were selected, those that were excluded, and the criteria applied to make that distinction. For that reason alone, it deserves a place in any substantive collection in library science.

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