Scholarly Communication at BC:
Creating an Online Bibliography
Scholars engaged in library research often rely on indexes, journals, and books as well as a more specialized resource type, the subject bibliography. Subject bibliographies can be as short as a page and as long as a multivolume set, and until recently they have been produced primarily in print format. Typically, they are the product of an individual scholar or a team of scholars who, after determining the subject’s scope, gathered and organized the data into a useful intellectual framework for publication. But because of the web, scholars can now consider another publishing option, one that offers a more dynamic way of creating and using subject bibliographies.
Last year while on a research leave, I created a bibliography in Buddhist-Christian scholarship, a subject area familiar to me through my own research and writing. The Buddhist-Christian Studies
Database or BCSD is available on the web and searchable in ways similar to commercial indexes like the MLA International Bibliography or Sociological Abstracts. I used Reference Manager, a software tool like EndNote or RefWorks which is used to gather citations and manage bibliographies. In addition to standard citation manager features, Reference Manager can be used to publish bibliographies on the web in an online searchable format. Researchers can search BCSD for authors, titles, and keywords and limit by publication year, document type (e.g., article, essay, dissertation), and language. It also permits the selection of specific citations and exporting them to another citation manager like EndNote or RefWorks.
BCSD’s subject scope was in large part determined by the annual journal Buddhist-Christian Studies, considered by many to be one of the more important records of scholarly discussions about the encounter between the two religious traditions. I browsed the journal’s articles and book reviews in order to identify the initial keywords for BCSD’s keyword list, a feature of the database which provides links between articles about the same topics. Currently, the years covered by BCSD are 1995 to the present, but I will continue adding citations to articles appearing in Buddhist-Christian Studies and other journals as well as citations to essays, books, and dissertations until BCSD’s coverage extends back to 1981, Buddhist-Christian Studies’ first year of publication.
The citations for BCSD are being gathered from conventional sources like ATLA Religion Database, Philosopher’s Index, and Dissertations and Theses – Full Text, but also by submissions from scholars working in this subject area. Messages about BCSD and its openness to submitted citations have been posted on scholarly listservs, and I have made presentations about BCSD to scholarly organizations like the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies. Submitted citations can be to published articles, essays, and books, but also to unpublished conference papers available on stable web servers or in a university’s institutional repository like Boston College’s eScholarship@BC. Some journal publishers permit published articles to be placed in institutional repositories; if that is the case, BCSD can link to these articles as well.
From the beginning, my purpose has been to create an open access database, i.e., a free web resource. As such, it is a contribution to scholarly communication and the growing open access movement ably described by Peter Suber on his website. BCSD provides researchers with a tool which identifies material relevant to their research and provides links to full text items freely available on the web. It also enables scholars to publicize their work by allowing them to submit citations, and once the citation appears in BCSD, it is immediately connected by keyword links to all the other items in BCSD on the same topic. If BCSD is to succeed in the long run, it will succeed as the project not of an individual scholar but of a community of scholars creating a resource for their own research and the research of their colleagues.
Head, Collection Development