Subject Guides: Cyberspace Launch Pads

by Judith Maginnis Kuster - Minnesota State University, Mankato (kuster@mnsu.edu).

Subject Guides, also referred to as webliographies or topical guides, are good places for novice Web surfers to be introduced to the valuable resources on the Internet in their interest area. Because they are assembled by individuals (real people with experience or expertise in a given field of study), they cannot be as current as the automated search engines (such as Altavista, Excite, Hotbot, Fast, Webcrawler, Google, Go.Network, Northern Light, etc.) that continously search the web using software spiders/robots.

To compensate for this apparent disadvantage, sites listed in subject guides, unlike those listed in the automated search engines, have been through at least the review of the individuals who have created the guide. They are thus valuable in reducing complicated search strategies and often point to the best resources in a specific topic area in a more organized fashion than the automated search engines.

Starting in 1993on a gopher site at the University of Michigan Clearinghouse, subject guides were online before the World Wide Web was available. This project migrated to a company called the Argus Clearinghouse a few years later. The subject-oriented research guides in the Clearinghouse are typically submitted by people working in the discipline of the guide or by university librarians. Only about 10-15 percent of guides submitted are accepted. Each guide links to important sites within the specified subject area, and is rated by the Clearinghouse staff on five parameters (level of resource description, level of resource evaluation, guide design, guide organizational schemes and guide meta-information).

Several guides may be of particular interest to communication sciences and disorders specialists, including:

About.com also provides a "network of sites led by expert guides," but is less selective than the Argus Clearinghouse and several of the "expert guides" do not have the credentials of those in the Argus Clearinghouse. Nevertheless it is worth a look.

There are similar subject guides independent of the Argus Clearinghouse or About.com:


Kuster, JM, Subject Guides: Cyberspace Launch Pads, ASHA Leader, August 1, 2000, p. 7