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Planet SOSIG: Internet Resources for Social Scientists

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Pete Maggs discusses finding high-quality Internet resources for social science and methodology, based on his experience as a SOSIG Section Editor.

The Social Sciences General, Methodology Section of SOSIG

With such a broad remit, this section of SOSIG clearly has the potential to describe an almost endless number of Internet resources. As editor of the section, my aim has been twofold - to include as many multi-disciplinary high quality international resources as possible that contain useful information in their own right, as well as identifying Internet sites that complement and expand upon those included in the more specific sections of the gateway. Clearly this can be, on occasion, a difficult balance to get absolutely right but as editor I'm always keen to receive feedback on the section and am happy to explore all suggestions for sites that users feel should be included. Please feel free to contact me directly at the email address <p.r.maggs@exeter.ac.uk> or use the link from the SOSIG page [3].

The SOSIG browsing page for the 'Social Science General' section
Figure 1: The SOSIG browsing page for the "Social Science General" section

Nearly all of the sites I include provide information that is freely available. However, if I feel a site is of particular value - even if perhaps some sort of subscription cost may be involved - its details will also been added. It is left to the discretion of the user if they actually then wish to subscribe to the data being provided by the host site.

What follows is a selection of some of the most useful and interesting sites from this section.

Types of Internet Resources Available

With the new version of SOSIG you now have the choice to browse resources in each section either under an alphabetical listing, or by Resource Type (see the option on the top left of each browsing screen).

The option for selecting different views of the SOSIG browsing section
Figure 2: The option for selecting different views of the SOSIG browsing section

Browsing by resource type gives you a clear indication of the nature of each resource listed, which can save you a lot of time and effort. I'd like to highlight the following types of resources in my section:

  1. Organisations
  2. Datasets
  3. Books and Directories
  4. Electronic Journals, Working Papers and Pre-prints
  5. Mailing Lists and Mailing List Archives

1: Organisations

Many of the important social science organisations now have a home page. These can be found by browsing under the following headings:

Organisations / Societies

Research Projects / Centres

You will find the following types of important organisations listed:

  • Research bodies of international standing across a whole range of fields such as the Centre for Health Economics [5] or Centre for Policy Studies [6]
  • Smaller bodies concentrating on more localised concerns - for example, the Centre for Rural Social Research at the Charles Stuart University in Australia [7]
  • Special interest, single-issue groups such as Housingnet [8] - an independent organisation that aims to utilise the World Wide Web for the benefit of all those concerned with social housing.

2: Datasets

The Internet is increasingly used as a means of storing and accessing social science data. SOSIG has a browsing category for data, which vary in format from:

  • Full-text resources - for example, the South African Data Archive (SADA) [9] - a non-profit national resource centre aimed at providing and promoting machine-readable research data and documentation to all research organisations in South Africa, other African countries and all other countries internationally. Alternative European sources could perhaps include CESSDA [10] which is an integrated data catalogue for mainly European social science archives
  • To bibliographies - such as the Social Science Bibliography of Northern Ireland 1945-1983 [11]

3: Books and Directories

The Internet is throwing up its own version of books. These include digitised versions of printed books but also new "book equivalents" where a Web site provides primary access to original content held locally, created by a single author or corporate body, and relating to a single topic. Again, these vary considerably from:

  • Highly subjective personal writing - for example, the personal diary of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (1989-present) [12] is a prize-winning, regularly updated and highly personal photo-diary of life on the West Bank following the Oslo agreement. It is maintained by Nigel Parry who is a journalist employed as a Public Relations Officer at Bir Zeit University.
  • To official directories - such as The Guide to European Funding Opportunities for UK Social Science [13] which provides a set of information sheets written to describe the various sources of European funds available for social science research.

4: Electronic Journals, Working Papers and Pre-Prints

When it comes to academic publishing on the Internet, there is a huge amount of variance in online information provision, ranging from full-text electronic journals, to sites that only list Tables of Contents; and from sites that point to single articles, to sites that point to vast collections of articles.

SOSIG now has created new categories to help users to identify very quickly exactly how much information they will be able to access online from a site:

  • Journals (full text)
  • Journals (contents and abstracts)
  • Articles/Papers/Reports (individual)
  • Articles/Papers/Reports (collections)

There are many resources in this area and everyone has their own individual favourites. Perhaps some of the most popular include:

  • The International Social Science Journal [14] published by UNESCO, which like many titles, continues to publish in print format, whilst offering online access to contents pages and journal abstracts.
  • The fully online, interactive and peer-reviewed journal Public Administration and Management [15].
  • The ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change [16] (or British Household Panel Survey) which brings together and publishes the abstracts of working papers of researchers from across the range of Social Science disciplines.

5: Mailing Lists and Mailing List Archives

You can find a number of generic social science mailing lists in this section of SOSIG. Again the range of services here is wide. Some you can use to follow the thrust of ongoing discussion e.g.,

  • Economics and social sciences lists [17], which provides a listing of all relevant, current mailing lists at Mailbase.

Others might be used more as a current awareness service e.g.:

  • The esrc-international mailing list archive [18] which provides access to regular ESRC updates on international research co-operation in the social sciences.

Social Science Methodology / Research Methods and Tools

The SOSIG browsing sections often have sub-sections or related sections which point to you to further lists of Internet resources. Within this section of SOSIG you will find sub-sections for Social Science Methodologies which in turn has sub-sections for Quantitative Methods and Qualitative Methods. There is also a related section called Research Methods and Tools. (you can access sub-sections by selecting the links at the top of each browsing page).

Some of the sub-sections available under 'Social Science general'
Figure 3: Some of the sub-sections available under "Social Science general"

This is a fast expanding area. Examples of the variety of resources already added to the gateway include:

  • Articles such as: "How to Put Questionnaires on the Internet" [19]
  • Full-text online resources like: the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation [20]
  • Useful, very specific, email discussion lists: for example, the multilevel-analysis mailing list archive [21] for people using multilevel analysis (multilevel modelling; hierarchical data analysis) and any associated software (e.g. MLn, HLM, VARCL, GENMOD).

The SOSIG Subject Guides

This has been a brief summary of the collection. SOSIG has produced Subject Guides for each of its subject sections, which suggest ways in which researchers and academics might use Internet resources to support their work - for example to support literature searches, to maintain current awareness and to find teaching resources. I've written the guide called "Social Science and Social Science Methodology on the Internet" available on the SOSIG Web site [22] and you are invited to read this for further information on this topic.

Index for the SOSIG Subject Guides
Figure 4: Index for the SOSIG Subject Guides

References

  1. SOSIG (The Social Science Information Gateway)
    <URL: http://www.sosig.ac.uk/>
  2. Social Science General (section of SOSIG)
    <URL: http://www.sosig.ac.uk/roads/subject-listing/World-cat/gen.html>
  3. SOSIG Section Editor for General Social Science/Methodology
    <URL: http://www.sosig.ac.uk/profiles/social_science_general.html>
  4. Social Science (general) and Methodology on the Internet - a SOSIG Subject Guide
    <URL: http://www.sosig.ac.uk/subject-guides/social_science.html>
  5. Centre for Health Economics, University of York
    <URL: http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/che/>
  6. Centre for Policy Studies
    <URL: http://www.cps.org.uk/>
  7. Centre for Rural Social Research
    <URL: http://www.csu.edu.au/research/crsr/centre.htm>
  8. Housingnet
    <URL: http://www.housingnet.co.uk/basehelp.htm>
  9. SADA
    <URL: http://www.hsrc.ac.za/sada.html>
  10. CESSDA
    <URL: http://www.nsd.uib.no/Cessda/IDC>
  11. Social Science Bibliography of Northern Ireland 1945-1983
    <URL: http://www.cain.ulst.ac.uk/bibdbs/nissbib.htm>
  12. Personal Diary of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (1989-present)
    <URL: http://www.birzeit.edu/diary/>
  13. Guide to Funding Opportunities for UK Social Science
    <URL: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/eu/esrclh.html>
  14. International Social Science Journal
    <URL: http://www.blackwellpublishers.co.uk/asp/journal.asp?ref=0020-8701>
  15. Public Administration and Management
    <URL: http://www.hbg.psu.edu/Faculty/jxr11/>
  16. ESRC Resource Centre on Micro-Social Change
    <URL: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/>
  17. Economics and Social Science Lists
    <URL: http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/category/L.html>
  18. ESRC-International Mailing List Archive
    <URL: http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/esrc-international/>
  19. How to Put Questionnaires on the Internet
    <URL: http://salmon.psy.plym.ac.uk/mscprm/forms.htm>
  20. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
    <URL: http://www.soc.surrey.ac.uk/JASSS/JASSS.html>
  21. Multi Level-Analysis Mailing List Archive
    <URL: http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/multilevel/>
  22. SOSIG Subject Guides
    <URL: http://www.sosig.ac.uk/subject-guides/index.html>

Author Details

Pete Maggs
Subject Librarian
Exeter University Library
Stocker Road
Exeter
Devon
EX4 4PT
Email: p.r.maggs@exeter.ac.uk

Peter Maggs is a Subject Librarian in the University Library at the University of Exeter.

Date published: 
19 March 1999

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How to cite this article

Pete Maggs. "Planet SOSIG: Internet Resources for Social Scientists". March 1999, Ariadne Issue 19 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue19/planet-sosig/


article | by Dr. Radut