The Timeline for IsisCB Explore

This week we made public a new timeline feature for IsisCB Explore. The timeline is currently visible only on the authority record layouts.

Figure 1. Any term or name with a blue circle i following it will take you to the authority record for that item.

Below I’ll explain how to find these timelines and suggest some possible uses for them to help your searches. (Users who would like to go directly to the tutorial slideshow, go here; those who want to see the tutorial video, go here.)

1. Where are the authorities?

But before I discuss the timeline, I want to explain how to find the authority records and what they are for. There are two main ways to get to authority records. First, you can either click on any

Figure 2. All search results pages have an authority tab, showing lists of authorities that match your query.

highlighted item with a blue “(i)” button next to it (Figure 1). These will be found in citations and in the facet lists on the left of search pages. you can also use the regular search line and clicking on the “Authority” tab at the top of the search results page once it has finished loading (Figure 2).

By looking at both of these screens, you will see that authority records are crucial elements in the bibliography. I think of them as nodes in the network. They are all of the objects (human, institutional, and semantic) that make up a citation. By linking all citations to authorities in this way, the authority records can be used to both find related records and help researchers understand more about the objects themselves.

2. The parts of an authority record.

I’ve chosen the authority record for a prolific author to demonstrate this. The image here shows the view of the authority record for Alain Touwaide. (Figure 3)

Figure 3. The timeline as shown in the authority record for Alain Touwaide, a prolific author. Note the different categories for locating records.


Figure 4. Lists of citations following the timeline are organized by role (author, editor, publisher, subject, etc.).

When you go to Touwaide’s record, you’ll see a timeline that shows all citation records associated with him. These can be any type of relationship. There are books, chapters and articles linked to him that span the period 1985 to the present.

Below the timeline, you will find partial lists of citations organized by role. In this case, we can see that he is an author, editor, and contributor. If this were a historical figure like Isaac Newton, you would find most of the related citations under Subject. (Figure 4)

By arranging the authority layout in this way, it is possible to isolate specific types of citations.

3. The timeline.

The timeline distinguishes between six different types of scholarship: books, chapters, articles, reviews, theses, and other. If you hover your

Figure 5. You can see types of records more easily by hovering over the color representing that type of record.

cursor over the color key at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see that you can emphasize a single area simply by putting your cursor over it. (Figure 5)

Figure 6. The column feature allows you to see at least some of the titles of items published in a given year. Clicking on a column will open up a search results page, with all items published that year.

The columns also allow user functionality. If you hover your cursor over a bar representing a year, you’ll be able to see some of the titles that have been published in that year. (Figure 6) The “tooltips” box that pops up next to the column gives you precise numbers for each of the types of works in that year, and shows you three of the items in that list. If you want to see all works from that year, simply click the cursor over the column and a search results screen pops up showing you the items you want to see.

Savvy researchers will be able to use the information on this timeline to help them better understand the context of the citations and the limitations of the IsisCB database. First of all, if you look at this entry, you can immediately see that Touwaide has been writing at least since 1985 and he is still active. You can also see that he is a proficient author, publishing regularly, not only articles but books as well.

If you use the link under the timeline, “All records associated with this authority. See a list of 40 records.” you can even more useful information quite quickly. (Figure 7)

Figure 7. Viewing all records from an authority allows you to grab those references with your citation manager, as well as see information about the characteristics associated with that authority.

Figure 8. You can use the facet lists to scan for related authorities.

The list of all items is in inverse chronological order and can be captured by your citation manager (Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley) in bunches of 20. You can look at the facet lists to the left of the page and see a lot more about this author’s works. You can see who he has co-published with, in the “Authors & Contributors” facet; you can see subjects he’s written about; and you can see what time periods and places he has worked on. (Figure 8)

4. Using the authority records.

I’m hoping authors will look for themselves in the IsisCB and tell me if they are accurately represented. If you see gaps in the database that we need to fill, please let me know so that I can improve the coverage. The feedback feature that is at the top of every page is simple and fast. You don’t need to give full information, but your email address will be helpful if we have questions. (See Figure 9.)

Figure 9. If you see gaps or problems, please send a comment to the editor. We try to respond quickly.

Figure 10. Always try alternative searches. Many duplicate records exist for a variety of reasons.

Although the authority record system is a very powerful search and information tool, it does have some downsides. Authorities are notoriously difficult to manage for any database editor, and the IsisCB is no exception. In the case of Alain Touwaide, for example, it turns out that we have two authority records that seem to have links to different sets of data. You can discover this when you do a search for Touwaide in the search box and then check the authority list. (Figure 10). The reason for the two records is that his name is spelled differently. Eventually, we hope to merge as many of these duplicates as possible, but this is time-consuming and somewhat dangerous because it could be that there is another person, A. Touwaide, who is different from Alain Touwaide. The point is that you should be sure to check for authorities in different ways.

If you want to see a short video going over these features, you can find it at the IsisCB YouTube channel here.

Happy exploring…