Databases have transformed the way many of us interact with historical sources. How much do we actually cite the databases that we use to find our sources? Are certain disciplines more forthcoming in citing databases used than others? Searching JSTOR for references to the database Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) provides some preliminary evidence that historians reference their databses (in this case, ECCO) much less than other disciplines, but historians’ hesitance to cite ECCO is far from exceptional due to the overall lack of such a practice among scholars as a whole.
Admittedly, the research for this investigation was rather rudimentary, but the results are still telling. The results in this post come from a single search for “Eighteenth Century Collections Online” (in quotes) in JSTOR, which returned over 126 results, published between 2007 and 2014. I also searched the term “ECCO,” but it rendered too many results to evaluate. Moreover, the vast majority of the results used the term “ecco” in ways that had nothing to do with the database. Of 126 results, Fifty of the results came from clearly non-historical journals–for example, PMLA, ELH, Huntington Library Quarterly, etc. Of the remaining 80 journals, the vast majority came from interdisciplinary journals, or “studies” journals, such as Eighteenth Century Studies. Focusing on just one journal that is the most frequent result, Eighteenth Century Studies (nine results, or roughly 7% of the total results), we can more easily see the disparity between the literary and historical disciplines in the citations of ECCO. Of the nine results, six are clearly literary ; two are explicitly historical ; one is a discussion of the limits of ECCO . These numbers suggest that literary scholars are more comfortable with citing the databases with which they work.
Nevertheless, the very small numbers suggest that very few articles actually cite the databases in use. Conservatively estimating an average of five articles per quarterly publication, 140 articles have been published through Eighteenth-Century Studies between 2007 and 2013. To assume that only nine of those 140 (or 6.5%) actively used ECCO in their research seems to be folly. Historians–from this admittedly limited sampling–seem to be bringing up the rear in what can hardly even be called a trend to cite the databases through which scholars reach their sources.
1. Brandy Lain Schillace, “‘Temporary Failure of Mind’: Deja Vu and Epilepsy in Radcliffe’s ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho,'” Eighteenth-Century Studies 42:2 (winter 2009): 273-287; Mary Helen McMurran, “The New Cosmopolitanism and the Eighteenth Century,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 47:1 (Fall 2013): 19-38; Laura Baudot, “An Air of History: Joseph Wright’s and Robert Boyle’s Air Pump Narratives,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 46:1 (Fall 2012): 1-28; Alex Wetmore, “Sympathy Machines: Men of Feeling and the Automaton,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 43:1 (Fall 2009): 37-54; Ala Alryyes, “War at a Distance: Court-Martial Narratives in the Eighteenth Century,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 41:4 (summer 2008): 525-542; Patrick C. Fleming, “The Rise of the Moral Tale: Children’s Literature, the Novel, and ‘The Governess,'” Eighteenth-Century Studies 46:1 (summer 2013): 463-477; Scott M. Cleary, “Castles in the Air: Christopher Smart and the Concept of System,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 43:2 (winter 2010): 193-206. All accessed through JSTOR.
2. Peter Walmsley, “Whigs in Heaven: Elizabeth Rowe’s ‘Friendship in Death,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 44:3 (spring 2011): 315-330; James Chandler, “Edgeworth and the Lunar Enlightenment,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 45:1 (Fall 2011): 87-104. Both accessed through JSTOR.
3. Patrick Spedding, “The New Machine”: Discovering the Limits of ECCO,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 44:4 (summer 2011): 437-453, accessed through JSTOR.