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Subject indexing in humanities: a comparison between a local university repository and an international bibliographic service

Koraljka Golub (Department of Cultural Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)
Jukka Tyrkkö (Department of Languages, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)
Joacim Hansson (Department of Cultural Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)
Ida Ahlström (University Library, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 2 June 2020

Issue publication date: 11 February 2020

Abstract

Purpose

As the humanities develop in the realm of increasingly more pronounced digital scholarship, it is important to provide quality subject access to a vast range of heterogeneous information objects in digital services. The study aims to paint a representative picture of the current state of affairs of the use of subject index terms in humanities journal articles with particular reference to the well-established subject access needs of humanities researchers, with the purpose of identifying which improvements are needed in this context.

Design/methodology/approach

The comparison of subject metadata on a sample of 649 peer-reviewed journal articles from across the humanities is conducted in a university repository, against Scopus, the former reflecting local and national policies and the latter being the most comprehensive international abstract and citation database of research output.

Findings

The study shows that established bibliographic objectives to ensure subject access for humanities journal articles are not supported in either the world's largest commercial abstract and citation database Scopus or the local repository of a public university in Sweden. The indexing policies in the two services do not seem to address the needs of humanities scholars for highly granular subject index terms with appropriate facets; no controlled vocabularies for any humanities discipline are used whatsoever.

Originality/value

In all, not much has changed since 1990s when indexing for the humanities was shown to lag behind the sciences. The community of researchers and information professionals, today working together on digital humanities projects, as well as interdisciplinary research teams, should demand that their subject access needs be fulfilled, especially in commercial services like Scopus and discovery services.

Keywords

Citation

Golub, K., Tyrkkö, J., Hansson, J. and Ahlström, I. (2020), "Subject indexing in humanities: a comparison between a local university repository and an international bibliographic service", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 76 No. 6, pp. 1193-1214. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-12-2019-0231

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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