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Author: Suzanne Graham
Title: Historians and Electronic Resources: A Second Citation Analysis
Publication Info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
August 2001

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Source: Historians and Electronic Resources: A Second Citation Analysis
Suzanne Graham

vol. 4, no. 2, August 2001
Article Type: Article
PDF: Download full PDF [27kb ]

Historians and Electronic Resources: A Second Citation Analysis

Suzanne Graham

This second part of a series that considers the impact of electronic publishing on the professional literature in history examines the quantity and types of electronic resources cited in journal articles published between 1997 and 2000. A citation analysis was performed on the articles of full-time history faculty from thirty randomly-selected undergraduate departments in the United States. These findings, coupled with a similar bibliometric study of seven history journals, indicate that historians infrequently cite electronic resources in scholarly publications and that almost half of these citations reference online articles.


Studies targeting research in the hard sciences report wide use and acceptance of electronic resources among faculty. Julie M. Hurd has studied the research habits of science professors since the early 1990s, finding that electronic seems to be their medium of choice. [1] History professors show very different opinions of scholarly research and the Internet. The present study is the second part of a two-part series asking whether and how historians use electronic information in professional publications, based on an analysis of the resources they cite.


Part one of the series is published in the November 2000 issue of the JAHC, and it indicates academic historians only rarely reference electronic resources in their research. [2] It covers professors in large history departments at institutions with strong library digitization projects, and it examines research published in two premier journals in the field. The present study is more inclusive. It incorporates a random sample of academic History programs in the United States and performs a citation analysis on the scholarly product of these selected programs. This bibliometric exercise is coupled with an investigation of the citations found in seven additional peer-reviewed journals, each catering to a different subject specialization.

In addition to whether historians use electronic resources, the study examines the characteristics of the use. What kinds of electronic resources do historians cite? How do they respond to library digitization projects versus other types of online information? Is there a correlation between the size and reputation of the History program and the faculty members' use of electronic citations? Do some fields appear to show a greater inclination to use e-resources than others?


Thirty academic History departments—selected randomly from the approximately 1250 schools listed in the 2000 edition of Peterson' s Guide to Four-Year Colleges—comprise the sample. [3] The roster of departments represents a cross-section of History academia in the continental United States. It includes departments ranging in size from two professors to thirty-five full-time faculty members, and it represents twenty-four states.

Departmental Web pages provided the names of the faculty members, and each name was searched in the online indexes America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts. [4] The analysis considered only articles published in U.S. journals between January 1997 and December 2000. It excluded opinion pieces (without citations) and book reviews.

A second bibliometric exercise analyzes articles published in seven subject area journals, selected to represent specific fields of historical inquiry. It includes all research articles of at least ten pages found in the following journals between January 1997 and December 2000: Albion, Diplomatic History, Journal of the Early Republic, Journal of Military History, Journal of Negro History, Journal of Southern History, and Journal of Women ' s History. Each electronic reference was counted, and, when possible, each was accessed and the origin and characteristics of the source examined.


The portion of the study targeting academic History programs reveals that three of the sixty historians (5%) cite online documents in their articles. Put another way, of the eighty articles examined in this part of the study, only three include electronic citations. [5] As a result, there is insufficient evidence of e-resource use to make any valid inferences on whether department size or reputation influence acceptance of e-citations, though the authors who did site e-sources teach at the two largest institutions in the study. [6]

In the review of the seven journals, only three of them contain more than one article with citations to e-resources during the four-year period from 1997 to 2000. The first reference to an online document occurs in late 1997; the appendix of Michael S. Foley's article refers to the online catalog of the American Antiquarian Society. [7] Although no e-citations appear in 1998, six articles cite online resources in 1999 and three in 2000. [8] Thus, the review of research articles published between 1997 and 2000 shows irregular use and, potentially, the hint of an early plateau in the growth of electronic resource citations.

Among the articles that include online items, e-citations average 12.5% of the total number of references. This figure is somewhat deceiving, however. The e-cite percentages varied widely from article to article. For example, fifty percent of the citations in Heather Lee Miller's piece entitled "World Wide Web Resources for Women's History" are to electronic sources. [9] Exclusion of Miller's study as an outlier drops the e-citation average to 5.4%.

The expectation that emerging fields, like women's history, would show greater numbers than more traditional fields is not substantiated by this study. Nor does this research support arguments that any of the fields of History are more or less receptive to electronic citations. Evidence of online information use is too limited, and differences among the journals are statistically insignificant. For example, Albion and Journal of Military History contain no citations, but the journals with the most citations, Diplomatic History and Journal of Southern History, have only three each, which corresponds to roughly 5% of their articles during the period.

In considering the combined results of the History programs and journal studies, only forty-six electronic citations appear, and twenty (roughly 43%) of them occur in a single article. [10] Of those resources cited, almost half (twenty-two) are online articles of varying length from newspapers, e-journals or are self-published. General citations to organizational Web pages comprise the next largest proportion with 22% of the citations. Electronic correspondence (personal emails and messages on electronic discussion lists) follows with 11%. Resources, in varying forms, from digital collections, which are produced and maintained by academic libraries, account for 8.7% or four of the forty-six.

In considering what types of domain names are most often cited, seven (or approximately 15%) had ".edu" domain names, indicating that they are housed on servers affiliated with educational institutions. This figure is significantly less than the 30% with commercial domain names (.com) and 25% with organizational domains (.org). Government domains (.gov) constituted less than 5% of the citations. One explanation for the preponderance of .com URLs is the relatively high use of online newspapers. The archives of the Associated Press and the New York Times both are .com URLs.


Despite the proliferation of historical information on the Internet since the mid-1990s, historians have yet to apply electronic resources as evidence in a significant way. At least there has been no trend that can be observed through citation analysis. This methodology excludes e-sources that are used but not cited. For example, it does not measure the use of online indexes and catalogs for locating secondary works or electronic archival finding aids for identifying primary sources. It is also reasonable to assume that historians may cite the print versions of articles, even if they actually accessed an electronic version through a service such as JSTOR.

Citation analysis does not address these issues but, in this case, it has something significant to say about library and archival digitization efforts. The study suggests that academic historians have been reluctant to accept these digital archives in their published research. It does not reveal whether the cause is a mistrust of the material, a concern about how such evidence will be received by other scholars, lack of e-sources in their field, lack of knowledge of availability or some other factor. Direct dialog with historians will be necessary to truly assess the level of use of research tools and documents and attitudes towards these references.

While no trend can be determined and no significant numbers of e-resources are cited consistently, online research tools are in the dialog of historians. As evidence, their use is neither patently rejected nor widely applied, and the professional journals are only beginning to grapple with their presence.

.06. APPENDIX:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; ;;

.07. NOTES

1. Hurd, Julie M, et al. "Information Use by Molecular Biologists: Implications for Library Collections and Services at the University of Illinois Chicago." College and Research Libraries, 60, no. 1 (January 1999): 31-43. And Julie M. Hurd, et al. From Print to Electronic: The Transformation of Scientific Communication. Chicago: American Society for Information Science (1997)

2. See: [accessed 30 March 2001].

3. Sample generated by taking the tenth program from the top and twentieth from the bottom of each column of the fifteen columns. Peterson's Guide to 4-Year Colleges. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's (2000) 1162-1165.

4. See Appendix for list of departmental addresses.

5. Gutierrez, David "Migration, Emergent Ethnicity, and the ‘Third Space:' The Shifting Politics of Nationalism in Greater Mexico." Journal of American History, 86, no. 2 (Summer 1999): 481-517. Jones, Maxine D. "'Without Compromise or Fear:' Florida's African American Female Activists." Florida Historical Quarterly, 77, no. 4(Winter 1999): 405-428. Neil Betten. "Designing a Holocaust Institute for Educator's: Opportunities and Problems." Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, 25, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 69-79. Betten's article also includes an editor's note to an online listing of related electronic resources, but as this is not the author's work, it is not counted for the purposes of this research

6. Florida State University has thirty-two full-time faculty, of which two cite e-resources, and UC-San Diego has thirty-five full-time faculty members with one citing e-resources.

7. Michael S. Foley. "A Mission Unfulfilled: The post Office and the Distribution of Information in Rural New England, 1821-1835" Journal of the Early Republic, 18, no. 4 (Winter 1997): 644.

8. Valentine M. Moghadam. "Revolution, Religion, and Gender Politics : Iran and Afghanistan Compared." Journal of Women's History [JWH], 10, no. 4 (Winter 1999) : 172-195. Heather Lee Miller. "World Wide Web Resources for Women's History." JW H, 11, no. 3(Autumn 1999): 176-187. Terrell Dale Goddard. "The Black Social Gospel in Chicago, 1896-1906: the Ministries of Reverdy C. Ransom and Richard R. Wright, Jr. The Journal of Negro History, 84, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 227-246. Robert Jervis. "America and the Twentieth Century: Continuity and Change" Diplomatic History [DH], 23, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 219-238. Reinhold Wagnleitner "The Empire of Fun, or Talkin' Soviet Union Blues: The Sound of Freedom and U.S. Cultural Hegemony in Europe." DH, 23, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 499-525. Robert Buzzanco. "What Happened to the New Left? Toward a Radical Reading of American Foreign Relations." DH, 23, no. 4 (Fall 1999): 575-607.

9. Heather Lee Miller. "World Wide Web Resources for Women's History." JW H, 11, no. 3(Autumn 1999): 176-187

10. Robert Buzzanco. "What Happened to the New Left? Toward a Radical Reading of American Foreign Relations." DH, 23, no. 4 (Fall 1999): 575-607.

Suzanne Graham