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Discovery September 1999

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On the Web Journals Respond to Internet Revolution

Internet Revolution by Jan Zauha

Info-trash abounds on the Web and shows no sign of abating. Solid scholarly information can be difficult to ferret out. One help for sorting through the heaps of questionable "publications" comes in the form of Web-accessible electronic journals (e-journals). Many journal publishers are responding to the Internet revolution by offering electronic versions of their print titles. These e-journals are evolving continually and rapidly, keeping pace with a very volatile market and technology.

At their best, e-journals provide convenient access to research information. Locating them is the first challenge. As is typical of most Web resources there is no one-stop directory. The MSU Libraries offers a selective list of e-journals Most of the titles included are subscription items and are limited to MSU-Bozeman users. To find e-journals not included in the MSU list, use a directory such as the University of Houston Libraries' Scholarly Journals site, the UCSD Libraries' Directories of Electronic Journals, or the Electronic Journals Resource Directory []. Searching for particular journals by title or publisher on Yahoo! and Snap, or using a search engine like AltaVista can also be fruitful.

While e-journals have much to offer, they do have drawbacks. Standards for access, format and archives have not stabilized. You will be better equipped for your foray if you accept idiosyncrasies and constant change as the norm. If you do not, frustration and confusion will quickly set in. For instance, some e-journals on the MSU list are accessible from computers on campus through IP address recognition; others require a user name and password and/or registration by the individual user, even with an institutional subscription. Patience is the key. No two journals seem to do things the same way, unless one entity, like Cambridge or Wiley InterScience, distributes them both. When confused, always read available Help files and take advantage of any e-mail contacts offered.

Once you've located and successfully accessed an e-journal, the next step is comparing the electronic to the print issues you are accustomed to reading. Some e-journals offer different content than their print twins. In some cases, only abstracts or the full texts of selected articles are available online. Format options can also be problematic; whether html, pdf, PostScript, or RealPage, you will need the proper setup to view the articles.

There is no doubt e-journals are here to stay and that they can be very useful. View the full text of an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the beauty of Web delivery is immediately evident: the references within articles are hyper-linked to the full text of cited articles when available. In the long term, as the e-journal world becomes more robust and standardized, tracing ideas electronically will become more common and perhaps even easy.

To read more about the bigger e-journal picture, see Electronic Journals: A Selected Resource Guide or the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography []. Follow e-journal developments by subscribing to NewJour. Beyond e-journals there are many other options for obtaining the full text of journal articles in electronic format. For help locating or accessing e-journals or articles, call or stop in at the Renne Library reference desk. If you find Web sites that you think might be of interest to the MSU community, please send me an e-mail message at JanZauha is a reference librarian and the Electronic Information Coordinator for the MSU Libraries.


© 2000 Montana State University-Bozeman

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