“GPS for scholars,” as it likes to refer to itself, Oxford Bibliographies Online offers literature guides prepared by subject experts in a variety of fields including Communication. Additional subject modules Penn subscribes to are Atlantic History, Biblical Studies, Buddhism, Classics, Criminology, Hinduism, International Relations, Islamic Studies, Medieval Studies, Philosophy, Public Health, Renaissance and Reformation, Social Work, and Victorian Literature. Other modules are due out later in the year, including Cinema Studies and Anthropology.
Traditional bibliographies and the online abstracting & indexing services that emerged out of them are no help here. These tools suited research needs when we were in information scarcity culture, but in information overload culture these unfiltered lists of everything published lose their value—they’ve simply become too large to be meaningful. Users do not know exactly why a citation showed up in their search results, they do not know how it fits in the history of scholarship, and they have no indication which resources are of high scholarly quality and which are less reliable. In the end, the white noise of information overload culture yields the same results as the lack of content in our previous information scarcity culture: research paralysis. We don’t need unfiltered lists of citations. Today’s challenge is to build a resource that guides scholarly research through the growing mass of unqualified academic output, offering selective annotated research paths that are insightful, increase productivity, and raise the level of quality in new scholarship. –Letter from the Publisher
OBO claims that each article included in their guides receives multiple peer reviews as well as editorial board vetting. What’s very nice about this world of essential texts that OBO is carving out for students and researchers is that every cited item links to full-text. Also promised are frequent updates so that these modules represent where the field is currently at, at least in theory. The Communication module is edited by Patricia Moy (University of Washington). There are over 50 members on the editorial board, including three Annenberg grads, Yariv Tsfati (University of Haifa), Matthew Carlson (Saint Louis University), and Brian Southwell (University of Minnesota). Over 60 subject areas are covered in this edition and more (with additional Annenberg editorial representation) are slated to be added in Fall 2011 and Spring 2012. This product is so new I don’t have a personal feel with it yet but I am looking forward to getting to know it. I certainly applaud the initiative because we are all drowning if we are not sifting and sifting takes time. OBO is not only doing the sifting but has assigned the task to proven experts.