(As mobile devices provide us with an increasing amount of access to the Internet, tablets and mobile applications (apps) can help scholars and students work on their research with more freedom than sitting at a desk or even being tied to a laptop computer. Traditional databases are still available to mobile device users through various channels, either through subscription services or through library connections. Some of these apps, however, attempt to pick up where some databases leave off.
In order to create an equalizing element of analysis, I will use each of these apps to attempt to locate an article by Tamara Harvey with the following citation:
Harvey, Tamara. “Women in Early America: Recharting Hemispheric and Atlantic Desire.” Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers 28.2 (2011): 159-176. Project MUSE. Web. 29 July 2013.
These reviews are based upon the Apple iOs versions of apps available for Apple mobile devices (iPhone, iPad 2/3/4, and iPod touch) and are initially free to purchase through the Apple App Store. Users who have a basic proficiency in using these devices and experience in working with scholarly databases should be able to use these apps.
Article Search (AS)
Article Search, or AS, is an interesting app that helps scholars and students locate articles found in other databases. Instead of utilizing Project MUSE or JSTOR, however, Article Search draws from Microsoft Academic and Google Scholar, two web services that search the Internet for books, articles, and other research sources that are deemed to be credible, sound references for scholarly work. The drawback is that, even though the app is free to download, users must purchase additional “premium library packs” in order to access other databases.
In searching for Tamara Harvey’s article by the author’s name, Article Search’s preliminary result displays the number of results available in Google Scholar versus Microsoft Academic. Users can then click on the corresponding graphic to show results from that search engine. For Tamara Harvey, Google Scholar returned about 8,000 results, whereas Article Search reports Microsoft Academic having 106 returns for the same search. When examining the results from Google Scholar, the particular article by Harvey did not show up until page nine of the search results, while articles from other disciplines, other works by or mentioning Harvey, or works in languages other than English ranked higher in the results. Article Search, through Google Scholar, led me to the article’s listing in Project MUSE.
Microsoft Academic did not return any results that matched this particular article, but did return four other works by Harvey and an announcement in Legacy for the article in question. This app would be useful for students or scholars who are trying to look up articles found in other databases, but patience is needed to wade through material from other fields, as only Microsoft Academic has the capacity to filter results by discipline.
Access My Library College Edition (AML)
AML, created by database publisher Gale, looks like a promising app at first. It claims to give users access to member institutions’ libraries around the world. Upon launching the app, it prompts the user to select its state (U.S. users,) province (Canadian users,) or the international option. After selecting the user’s location, the app provides a list of member institutions associated with the user’s selection.
This is where AML fails as an app. To me, the app sounded promising by being able to access my campus library’s resources on my tablet without turning on the necessary gateways, which drain battery life. When scrolling through the list of member institutions, the main campus of my university was not listed, and only four out of seven branch campuses were listed, some with spelling errors or errors in their location. After selecting a branch campus, the app displayed a page with a map showing the library’s location and address, in addition to the option to “update my resources.” Upon tapping on this option, the app prompts the user to enter an administrative password, which most students do not have access to.
AML could be a really promising tool, if students and faculty, presumably, had the appropriate credentials to use it. For those who do not have the credentials, AML falls short by leaps and bounds.
The Questia app allows users to access the Questia Library database via mobile devices, just as users are able to via the Internet. Unlike Article Search, Questia allows users to access full text versions of books, articles, and other scholarly resources directly in the app without a go between search engine. An added bonus of Questia is that users can save resources according to projects and create separate folders for individual projects. For users who subscribe to the Questia Library via the Internet, the app offers additional resources, such as citation builders and advanced highlighting and mark up capacities.
What is useful about the Questia app is that it allows users to narrow their results by field, also referred to within the app as topics, before searching for a topic or article. This interface allows users to continue narrowing down their area of focus in order to return targeted results, or to continue to a general category. A search for Harvey’s article showed it as the sixth result after filtering for just journal articles, and then providing a summary of the special issue of Legacy in which it appeared, all relevant publication data, and the option to read the article or add it to a project. Out of the three apps, Questia returned targeted results the quickest with ample information about this resource, other than just the text of the article.
With tablets and other mobile devices being used more and more in place of desktop computers or laptops, mobile apps are giving users access to information on platforms that are more convenient for on-the-go people. For students or scholars looking for apps to use when researching or accessing scholarly resources, the options are out there. It takes some digging to sift through the apps that do not live up to expectations to find the apps that are truly helpful.
Access My Library College Edition. Gale Databases. Mobile iOs Application. 29 July 2013.
Article Search. Mobile iOs Application. 28 July 2013.
Questia. Questia Libraries. Mobile iOs Application. 30 July 2013.