FAQ: About JURN

JURN is a unique search-engine dedicated to indexing free and ‘open access’ ejournals in the arts and humanities. In early 2014 the scope of JURN was widened to include other open scholarly publications, such as theses and journals in science, biomedical, business, and ecology.

Frequently asked questions:

How do I use it?   You can use it just like Google. But testing JURN with a single-word search won’t get you very far. JURN is running on a Google Custom Search platform, and so better search results will come from using the usual Google search modifiers such as the intitle: modifier. This means JURN works best for the typical academic user who has an adequate grasp of the better ways to search Google, and who also has some idea of the exact search terms they need to use. JURN also tends to loves specifics. For example, a unsophisticated search for…

      Gender Studies Shakespeare

…will only obtain an interesting set of very broad and jumbled-up search results. A more sophisticated search will return much more specific and useful results, such as…

      intitle:”The Tempest” Miranda gender

Who is JURN for?

* independent scholars and researchers
* students and teachers in developing nations
* recent university graduates
* unemployed or retired lecturers
* knowledge professionals outside of academia
* business leaders
* public policy makers and planners
* journalists and bloggers
* public intellectuals and ‘think tanks’
* evidence-based campaigners
* amateur historians
* teachers of students aged under 18
* advanced and ambitious students, age 14-18
* home schoolers and grassroots educators

* adjunct or associate university lecturers, seeking a substitute for lost paywall access during the July—October break
* university lecturers and students, seeking a straighforward search tool for full-text open access content

What’s in the mix?   JURN’s unique strength is its coverage of open arts and humanities journals, something which has been highly curated and refined over a period of five years. See the JURN Directory for a list of all the English-language arts and humanities titles indexed, although please note that this does not cover the many journals published in other languages. By the end of March 2014 JURN completed a very major intake of open journals on wildlife and ecology related topics, business and economics, and science and biomedical.

What’s not in the mix?   Commercial ejournal holdings — such as Sage, Blackwell, Elsevier, JSTOR, Oxford, Intellect, and similar — are of course not indexed. The Flash-heavy websites used by a few fine arts and art photography magazines have a hard time being indexed by Google, even if they’re being indexed by JURN. Some e-journals “hide” the actual full-text articles from Google in various ways (by using hard image-scans of journal pages, database-driven dynamic numerical URLs, javascript obfuscation, or through the use of robot.txt files) and so are hard to discover via search.

Does JURN have weak coverage of certain topics or areas?   No attempt has been made to include educational studies journals, other than selected titles in Higher Education research. Small law journals are generally only indexed if they publish some articles related to the arts or communication technologies. Open scholarly journals in fashion are not indexed — simply because there are none — although fashion related articles will be found from journals in cultural studies, business, history and suchlike. Journals in languages other than English are not heavily indexed except in French and Spanish, since JURN’s core is in its comprehensive search of English language articles in the arts and humanities.

I see book chapters in the results?   JURN includes a number of URLs that bring in PDF “free-sample chapters” offered from reputable scholarly book publishers. Publisher file-naming conventions vary, but JURN has used various ways of excluding most of their book indexes, standalone tables of contents and dictionaries.

I see occasional respository records in the results?   Yes, as of February 2014, JURN is now experimentally including thesis repository records in search results, via indexing some of the newer and more discriminating global repository search services which focus overwhelmingly on adding records with full-text links. This addition of repositories will be monitored for distortion of JURN’s search results, but so far it doesn’t seem to cause problems. Google Search tends to favour journal article links in the first results, pushing the repository records down.

Is there a complete list of all journal titles indexed?   There used to be a PDF A-Z list of all arts and humanities titles indexed. This was complete on 2nd April 2011, but it is now no longer updated. A fully maintained and organised list of the arts and humanities titles is available as a live linked directory. As of March 2014 there is a maintained list of the ecology related titles. Note that these maintained lists only cover ejournals published in English.

What would you say is the general date range for titles indexed?   The material was mostly published after 1994, with the bulk of indexed articles being published in the last decade. There are relatively few pre-1945 journals, but this is not due to any policy — this is mostly because such journals tend to be published online in very Google-unfriendly ways (jumbled indiscriminately into repositories which use undifferentiated URLs, presented only as hard page-scans, or via clunky viewers that require Flash or other plugins), or else have simply not yet been scanned and placed online. However, in March 2014 JURN did experimentally add the JSTOR Pre-1923 articles to the index.

Why won’t JURN play nicely with Zotero or some other brand of automatic citation software?   JURN has been built using a Google Custom Search platform — so half the time you’ll be lucky to see the actual article title embedded in the search results link. You’ll often have to do some hand-building of references for JURN-sourced articles, and back-tracking to find out what journal it came from — since many open journals don’t bother to embed the journal title in the article PDF file.

Where did you hide the Google Scholar widgets?   JURN doesn’t have Google Scholar style “relevance ranking”, “related articles”, “number of times cited”, “recent articles”, or the ability to sort by author or title of a journal, etc. JURN is very far from what a librarian would call “optimised”. But this can actually be a good thing, since it reduces herd behaviour and exposes your search to some useful serendipity. Note that, from May 2012, you can at least re-sort the JURN search results by date — this feature works best in combination with the use of the current year date as an additional search keyword.

I’m pretty good at searching, why shouldn’t I just use the main Google? You’re welcome to. But note that using JURN serves to remove unwanted results from: Powerpoint files converted to PDF; old academic resumes; educational course documents; university marketing materials and departmental web pages; course descriptions and student bibliographies; articles in predatory open access journals; old promotional flyers for conferences and calls-for-papers; blog and mailing-list archives; undergraduate seminar Powerpoints; children’s school “K-12″ lesson plans; commercial journal abstracts for paywall articles; plain academic repository records with no link to any full-text; and so on. None of this material can be removed from the main Google search results, by even the most sophisticated search veteran.

Can’t I just use Google Scholar to access this material?   Overwhelmingly, no. Online presentation and web archiving of open ejournals in JURN’s core area of the arts and humanities tends to be haphazard and inconsistent. This is especially so with journals from learned societies and university departments. Most of the ejournals indexed by JURN don’t even use something as basic as RSS feeds (only 212 out of the JURN Directory’s 3,000 English-language titles use RSS), and few actually embed their journal title and issue details in the PDF. Very few seem to offer OAI-PMH. The resulting difficulties in automatic and accurate harvesting of metadata may be one of the reasons why open ejournals in the arts and humanities are very poorly indexed by Google Scholar. For instance, a 2011 study of Scholar by art historians found that Scholar was indexing only half of the DOAJ’s 30 art history titles. The removal of all the DOAJ’s single-article static records from Google Scholar search results, in December 2013, further weakened open access article coverage in Google Scholar.

Can’t I just use the DOAJ to search open access journals?   No, the DOAJ’s full-text coverage is actually quite limited. By my calculations at December 2013 the DOAJ appears to present article abstract records, those leading to full text, from around 470 open ejournals in English in the arts and humanities (inc. linguistics, philosophy, anthropology and ethnography). By comparison, JURN indexes over 4,500 arts and humanities titles — with around 3,000 of those being in English.

Can’t I just use Scopus / Web of Science / Summon instead? Don’t they index open access journals?   These are good commercial resources, if you have free institutional access behind their paywalls. But Scopus and Web of Science services appear to index less than 1,000 arts and humanities journal titles (commercial and open access together), and in general their open access journal coverage is far from complete. Summon’s coverage of open access appears a little better, but it depends heavily on third-party aggregators and university repositories at a time when the dire state of repository metadata means that harvesting full-text article or thesis content struggles to rise above 30%. A study of the indexing of open access Communication Studies journals found only 32% coverage in the big subscription journal databases.

I have free access to JSTOR. Isn’t that better for finding articles?   JSTOR is a great resource for the humanities, if you have free institutional access behind their paywall. But articles typically only appear in JSTOR about four or five years after publication, whereas the bulk of open access journals indexed by JURN publish articles freely and immediately. There is also little overlap in the titles indexed between JURN and JSTOR, other than pre-1923, so you’re effectively searching a different range of journals.

Is this just another hasty Google CSE search-engine that’s been built in three hours, and then been forgotten about?  No. It’s had years of intensive work put into it. JURN was launched on 3rd Feb 2009. The building and refining of the core site-index made JURN usable by early March 2009. By early April 2009 JURN came out of alpha. By late May 2009 JURN was indexing over 2,800 titles, the additional titles overwhelmingly found by my own Google searches. By early June 2009 JURN was essentially complete and out of beta, and I announced it as such on the blog. By November 2009 JURN was indexing over 3,400 titles, the total again boosted by my own intensive searching. By February 2011 JURN indexed 4,101 titles. This had risen to over 4,600 titles by December 2013. The URL database is actively checked and maintained.

How do you filter out the clutter that surrounds a journal’s core content? JURN doesn’t index the home pages, unless it can’t be avoided. Instead JURN uniquely uses the actual Google-visible article URL, rather than the home page URL. Every effort is made to exclude paywalled pages, in journals which are only partly free. For an idea of how JURN indexes only the free articles, see here.

What about link-rot and spam?   A regular Linkbot-based ’404 – not found’ hunt is undertaken, based on the links Directory, to help treat the inevitable link-rot. Home-page URLs that are flagged as ‘broken’ or ‘moved’ are investigated and relocated, usually leading to the discovery of a moved content URL. JURN also uses ‘dark side’ SEO software to check if the article-level URLs are still being indexed and displayed in Google search-results. Spam-magnets, such as defunct journal blogs, can be blocked using the Google CSE “Exclude” tool or by tweaking the original URL so as to only target the articles. Google also plays its part, by constantly indexing and weeding dead links from its databases. For these reasons you should find almost no dead links in JURN, despite its large size and scope.

What about the faux open access journals, whose publishers are only interested in the publishing fee?   JURN’s curator is well aware of such dodgy practices, and so far as is known no publishers on Bealle’s Lists of Publishers and Journals are indexed in JURN. I subscribe by RSS to all the blogs on the sidebar (see right), some of which are devoted to tracking predatory and dubious open access publishers, and I take note of new accusations and evidence.

What does JURN stand for?   JURN’s curator comes from a youthful background in publishing science-fiction ‘zines, and as such has always liked the fannish idea that an acronym-headed fanzine would have a different explanation of its initials for each issue. This practice was later taken up by some lesbigay publications — see the back-issues list of the queer literary zine RFD as an example. So feel free to make ‘JURN’ stand for anything, on any given day. Journal Usury Recovery Net? Jolly Urbane Reading Node? Jumped Up Rattle o’ Nuthin?

Who made your front-page banner?   Thanks to the Blender Foundation for the Creative Commons matte painting used in the background. I colour shifted it in Photoshop, and the font used for the JURN lettering was ‘FogLighten 04′.

I can’t stand the ‘bouncy puppy effect’ on the JURN Directory. How do I turn it off?   Simply save the page to your desktop (as a plain .htm file), and then open it again from there. The interactivity will disappear, and you’ll see a huge list of over 3,000 Web links in four columns. Happy scrolling!

Can I submit my title?   JURN’s curator tracks and adds new URLs from trusted sources such as: the DOAJ; NewJour; New in the EZB; and Jan Szczepanski’s lists of new open ejournals. If you don’t think your arts and humanities ejournal is likely to appear in these sources, you’re welcome to leave a comment and your journal’s URL as a posting on this blog. Please first check that your journal is not listed in the JURN Directory

All 212 “known and working” RSS feeds that are discoverable via this Directory are available in a single newsfeed here.

JURN is not currently accepting individual journal submissions from outside of the arts and humanities, but welcomes hearing about aggregator services for open content in the hard sciences such as astronomy, geology, ecology, and biomedical.

Could JURN become a fully-fledged independent search-engine, with its own crawler? Yes, but I need a benefactor with about £20k. I would then be able to guarantee complete coverage via a dedicated crawler/engine, and to comprehensively expand coverage to non-English titles and to a wider selection of ejournals. I estimate that the server costs and my time for this (15 hrs a week @ £6 per hour) would, over three years, cost around £18,000. Perhaps £20,000 with hardware, some marketing, and inflation taken into account. Note that around £50,000 worth of my ‘sweat equity’ has already been put into the project during its first five years. The main benefits for users would be: i) the creation of a better interface for handling search results and displaying titles and keywords; ii) search against all the full text in an article and chapter, with nothing skipped; and iii) the potential addition of social and sharing services.

Why do this?   JURN was created and is curated and maintained by David Haden, a teacher with twelve years of experience — including eight years teaching at the School of Theoretical and Historical Studies, Birmingham City University. I’ve spent five years making JURN, because I believe that free knowledge needs to be made easily findable. The Web is so huge now that useful material can easily become lost in the wide open spaces. So I used Google, as the best and fastest tool for online discovery, to build a simple direct interface to aid in the finding of full-text journal articles and chapters. Now JURN can be used by anyone in the world who has Web access, for free. I think that giving pre-focused and curated access to free high-quality knowledge is a worthy task, one worth putting some time into.

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