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ELT Book Reviews

Journals on CD

Journals on CD

TESOL Quarterly
ELT Journal
TESOL Journal

Journals at the fingertips, not buried in a bookshelf somewhere

Those of us who see ourselves as Teacher-Researchers, and those who are not yet at the research stage, often seek out articles to help guide us in our professional activities. Advancements in computer technology, particularly the availability of data on CDs, have offered great new opportunities for teachers.

TESOL Quarterly - Digital
Volumes 1- 34, 1967 - 2000 (US$160)

ELT Journal on CD-ROM
Volumes 36/1 - 54/4, 1981 - 2000 (60 British Pounds)

TESOL Journal - Digital 2000
Volumes 1 - 9, 1991 - 2000 (US$69)

There are also other useful products available, particularly those from JALT -- The Language Teacher (TLT) Episode I (vols. 1-10, Oct '76 - Dec '86) and Episode II (vols. 11 - 18, 1987 - '94), and conference proceedings of the past two years (the 2000 Proceedings also includes the first issue of the new PAC Journal).

Computing requirements
These CDs will run on Windows 95/98 and Macintosh. Unix, Windows NT and the newer Windows environments are also possibilities, but read the fine print before purchase. Initial installation can be a bit challenging; use is not complicated, though you will improve with practice.

Finding what you want -- fast!
Perhaps the greatest benefit to a well-designed CD-ROM data set is the high-powered search engine within the Acrobat Reader program. Acrobat Reader is the free program used to access these files, and is the number one choice for "text" documents because it preserves the original page formatting. Rather than pouring through the contents of dozens, or hundreds, of journal issues, you can typically search through a master "table of contents" or search the index for individual words from anywhere within the CD.

They are all there… not missing or "checked out"
One of the greatest frustrations in trying to read an article is finally getting to the stacks of journals and discovering that the issue(s) you want aren't available. Naturally, with the CD at your fingertips, you needn't fret. (Copyright rules prohibit copying some or all files on to your hard-drive).

Which to choose?
There are a number of items to consider, not least are the journal sources themselves. In the limited space available here, I can only offer three generalities -- TESOL Quarterly, as a world-class scholar's journal, is not typically the first choice for classroom-oriented teachers, nor for those looking for more accessible reading; the opposite end of the spectrum from TESOL Journal. ELT Journal comes somewhere in the middle in terms of readability and orientation, with some articles leaning more one direction or the other. ELT Journal is based in England, and TESOL publications from the US.

You might want to look at a few issues of the hardcopy versions of the journals, also look at back issue tables of contents/abstracts, available on the journals' websites.

Distinguishing features
There are a number of distinguishing features among CD-ROM journals, although updated versions may differ. ELT Journal on CD-ROM (ELTJCD) updates every other year, others more frequently.

ELT Journal on CD-ROM uses a different "user-interface", offering a desktop icon instead of requiring the user to open a sometimes difficult to find file directly off the CD (typically Mainmenu.pdf). Beyond this distinction, (you can circumvent the desktop icon if you wish), the general uses of these program are very much the same. Not surprisingly, considering they all use Acrobat Reader technology. For each offering, the program is included free on the CD.

All pages, including advertisements, are included in all these products except ELTJCD. ELTJCD's newest update now includes reviews and correspondence for 1999 and 2000, but not the editorials, or ads, all of which can be very useful.

Hyperlinks are common in the tables of contents and at the article title (linking back to table of contents). ELTJCD uses little blue boxes at the end of each article to return to the top of the main table of contents, but that is the sole form of hyperlink within articles. Very limited. TJD and TQD use hyperlinks differently, partly because, unlike ELTJCD's single file for each article, one PDF file contains all the pages of each issue. Red boxes around the TQD/TJD article title in each issue's table of contents serve as a hyperlink to the top of that article, a red box next to the title takes one back to that issue's table of contents, and the red box near the top of each page in the article jumps back to the top of that article. There is also a comprehensive (all issues) table of contents for both TQD and TJD, with links to the individual articles within the files. ELTJCD offers a searchable author index in their table of contents, not available in TQD and TJD.

In Conclusion
These are all great materials, and the most important consideration is whether the particular publication fits your reading/researching needs. The technological differences are not terribly important. The search capability alone is well worth the investment for each. One should remember that these are archives, they don't replace current subscriptions. The only downside??? They don't fill impressive bookshelves in your office…

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