"Freedom of Bibliography"
Combined Review and Comparison of Diotima, Gnomon Online, and TOCS-IN



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Traditional methods of locating references for a research project have always been straight-forward but time consuming endeavors. One flipped through the subject-listing in the card catalog or through cards listing works by known authors. One laboriously read through print indexes such as Fasti, L'Année Philologique, or the Archäologische Bibliographie, which were often years late in publishing. One browsed the footnotes in articles from relevant journals.

Now the use of online computer databases for locating references provides several distinct advantages, and in fact may soon render some of the old ways obsolete. First, key-word searching, if done effectively, can be extremely productive. Second, online indexes, which are updated daily or weekly, provide timely citations, often before the work is available in print. Third, new online software provides extensive reference lists from just a few well-chosen searches.

Three of these online products, Diotima, Gnomon Online, and TOCS-IN, which are most importantly free to everyone with web access, will be compared here. These free Internet products are a truly wonderful academic equalizer, providing bibliographic access to even the smallest, poorest, or remotest institution, as well as to the unaffiliated researcher. They are, in addition, both fast and accurate in searching and retrieving. There are of course some extremely useful CD-ROM bibliographic products such as the expensive Dyabola, which replaces the print indexes of the Archäologische Bibliographie. There is also the very useful CD-ROM of the Database of Classical Bibliography, adapted from the print L'Année Philologique and quite reasonable in price. These have often been reviewed. Gnomon is also available as a CD-ROM.

The three web databases under consideration here offer the best descriptions of their services directly from their web sites:

In order to locate the most available sources, all available databases should be searched in a variety of ways. To demonstrate the use and extent of each database, I searched for different subjects, first, a project I am now researching, "Ancient Greek Costume," second, a topic of which I know nearly nothing, "conservation," and lastly, a topic of interest to BMERR readers, "excavations."

Because there are no authority files and only very limited controlled vocabulary, a major difficulty in searching is that many different terms must be used in order to locate relevant sources. Another difficulty is that various languages must be used for each term, thus multiplying the number of searches required. It is also wise to know how and what these databases are searching. Diotima indexes all words in the bibliographies collected on their site. Gnomon Online uses a thesaurus, and entering a non-indexed term will lead you to a listing of preferred terms. TOCS-IN searches for keywords in the "title" field.

For the costume search, I used general words such as "costume, dress, clothing, cloth*" (truncated) as well as specific terms such as "peplos, chiton, mantle, chlamys," etc. For the costume search languages, I used the corresponding words in German, French, and Italian, such as "kleidung, tracht, vêtement, costum, abiti," etc. This appears to be a cumbersome process, but does produce quite useful results. The lists of references collected from each search can either be printed out, which preserves the accents and formatting, or saved in text files, which will not save the accents or formatting. The results can also be saved in HTML format to preserve the formatting. Files thus saved can then be merged together and sorted to eliminate duplicates, a fairly simple procedure with most word processors. The number of references located from each term also indicates the current popular usage: "clothing" producing the most "hits" -- 597 references from Diotima; "costume" very few -- only 30 references from Diotima; and "dress" the fewest -- only 13 references. Searching for "Kleidung" in Gnomon Online produced 126 references. Since TOCS-IN searches only keywords, the results were more meager here, 3 for "clothing," 4 for "costume," and 49 for "dress" or a total of 56 with no duplicates. Clearly, the total combined results are impressive, considering that a search for "Classical and Costume" from the widely available Art Index yielded only 19 entries. For a comprehensive search on the topic of "Ancient Greek Costume," one would also have to search for individual garments. There is no method, as far as I can tell, to locate articles that discuss the garments worn by certain persons, if that is not the subject of the article. For example, studies of certain statue types often depend on an analysis of the clothing, but those studies are not retrieved because they have not been given that subject classification. Interpretations of scenes on Greek vases often depend on who is wearing what, but the subject of the study may not be clothing.

My other search for "conservation" produced very few results in all databases: 2 from Diotima, 18 from Gnomon Online, and 11 from TOCS-IN. Obviously, one must know the subject strengths of the products before choosing one, and "conservation" is not a strong field in these three databases. Interestingly, a search for "excavation" in Diotima retrieved exactly zero references, and "excavations" (plural) retrieved only five. TOCS-IN produced better results for the subject: 178 for "excavation" and 137 for "excavations," all of which were also retrieved by the singular word search. Gnomon Online was by far the best for this subject: only 40 each for "excavation" and "excavations," but over 200 (the maximum capable of display) for "Ausgrabung," to which it convenienly led.

With all of the results, Greek must be sorted out from Roman manually, which is not an easy task. Future updates may produce better search mechanisms, but even the pricey Dyabola does not sort out Greek from Roman. Choosing the appropriate database is the first and most important lesson in this age of multiple and often conflicting online products. From the search examples, warnings to read the help pages should be headed. From Diotima: "Please note that any linked bibliographies stored in other servers will not be searched." From Gnomon Online: "Unlike the thesaurus search within Windows, the thesaurus search on the Internet can't cross hierarchical levels. If you find thus on the CD-ROM titles specifically linked to the terms of Ilias and Odyssey by just searching for Homer, you will have to search - for the same result - on the Internet for all three terms together." From TOCS-IN: "The data files are both WWW-searchable and available by ftp, formatted with SGML-style codes."

At the end of each Diotima result list is a form to use in searching related databases, Gnomon Online, TOCS-IN, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, Medieval Review, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Recherche im Fachkatalog Ägyptologie der Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Argos, Amazon.com (!), Perseus, and Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism. Certainly by searching most of these online databases, one could produce a very substantial bibliography. This is an impressive array of indexes, but to obtain the most benefit, one must learn to be a diligent and creative searcher, as the above example of searching for "clothing" or "costume" illustrates.

Of course there were some duplicates from combining all the search results. Many references have the first and last names reversed, so that sorting the combined files is difficult. Many references about costume, but without any relevant word in the title, are not retrieved. Yet in this new and exciting online world, the bibliographies produced by these searches are of great value as a prelude to the final result. They must not be considered an end product, and the traditional means of gathering information is just as important for a serious and thorough study. That the online bibliographies can be found at all and can produce such impressive results provides something we could hardly imagine just a few years ago. The Internet is a natural resource for sharing such things as references, and it is a wonder to me that there are not more of these online resources. Given a taste of these tools, however, we now want even more and better online databases, and these are no doubt just around the millennial horizon.

Postscript
Another free bibliographic source has just appeared, but too late for this review. An online version of L'Année Philologique for volume 67 (1996) is available at: http://www.aph.cnrs.fr/.



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