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Britannica Original Sources

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Britannica Original Sources is a new resource from Britannica that claims to provide 420,000 primary sources (many not available in any other collection) from all historical periods in one convenient location. A vetted primary source database from a respectable vendor is a much needed resource as students often have to search multiple sites of varying quality on the Internet to find primary sources. Unfortunately the reviewers felt that the Original Sources database falls far short in fulfilling this need. The reviewers found a myriad of problems with the resource from problematic search results to non-intuitive browsing and sorting features (e.g., sorting authors alphabetically on first name), to a lack of coherent metadata (it was impossible to tell what a document actually was from the search results and sometimes even from the document itself), to a scarcity of documents for various historical periods. In addition the reviewers were not able to locate any unique content by randomly searching documents from each section against the Internet. The document was located freely every time. Another criticism is the lack of inclusion of digital images of primary sources when available. All documents are presented in text format, and while this makes for easy reading, the benefits of being able to actually look at the primary source are many. Although we feel that Britannica is attempting to provide a valuable resource to the library community, we cannot recommend the database in its current form.

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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