Communication Institute for Online Scholarship
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ComAbstracts Visual Communication Concept Explorer Table of Contents Electronic Journal of Communication

User's Guide to the VCCE: Section 2 - Why?

User's Guide to the Visual Communication Concept Explorer (VCCE)

2. Why you would use the VCCE and what it covers

2.1 How can the VCCE help Communication researchers?

To answer this question, consider for a moment the nature of a "field of research." From an ethnomethodological perspective, a field of research consists of a group of people documenting specific practices throughout time. On a practical level this means that research involves more than just a combination of "literature reviews of bounded specific topics" that somehow inform "data analysis", rather it involves understanding (a) how people have made use of concepts to through time to solve particular research problems and (b) how people and concepts connect with each other. That, indeed, is the goal of "literature reviews" and the fundamental way in which material from "literature reviews" is used in "data analysis." The VCCE is a tool that you use to explore the field of Communication research, mapping out the conceptual and temporal connections between concepts, people, articles, and websites. You can use it to:

  • Explore how and when certain concepts have been used in connection with others in communication research;
  • Explore who first wrote about a concept (or combination of concepts), who else they worked with (and what else that person worked on), when, on what, and who else worked on similar combinations;
  • Explore the history or currency of a concept (or combination of concepts), finding the first time it was used, or the latest, or the half-way point in its use (the median);
  • Explore the popularity of concepts (and, you guessed it, combinations) through counts of its use;
  • Identify the communication field's most important concepts and ideas and to discover relationships between them.

You can do all of these things, one after the other, in any combination, or find your own ways of navigating through the field of Communication research. And when you've done so, you can get:

  • article citations;
  • full text articles depending on the journal and date;
  • researcher contact details;
  • website links;
  • links to CIOS discussion forums and other resources.

2.2 What is the difference between the VCCE and a traditional research database (such as a regular library catalogue or a specialized index like Social Science Abstracts)?

Perhaps most importantly, the VCCE is not really a database at all. It is more like the interface to your computer, or, if you prefer, more like your web-browser (although in fact it makes use of your web-browser as well). The VCCE is a point-and-click interface for Communication research information and the connections between that information. It does not contain the information itself per se, but looks it up in various places and then renders that information with a combination of graphics and text. The information that it looks up is contained in several CIOS databases. So the VCCE is different from a traditional research database, because (a) it has access to more varied kinds of data than any single database, (b) it connects data together in ways that traditional research databases do not and (c) it grapically maps out the data and lets you explore the connections both spatially and textually.

2.3 What information does the VCCE allow me to explore?

The system is fundamentally built on title, author, abstract and keyword information from the CIOS's ComAbstracts and Open Journals Index databases. At the time of writing ComAbstracts covers nearly 100 communication journals from 1915. For full details, see the ComAbstracts coverage information page.

Once you are using the VCCE, searching for concepts or people, you can link into and search for those people or concepts in a number of other databases. All of these databases function, and can be searched, independently, but the benefit of using the VCCE as your interface is that you can do a significant amount of exploration and connection of concepts and people that would not otherwise be possible using those databases independently.

CIOS Resource Library: A large collection of materials including:

  • Announcements of scholarly events, opportunities, products, etc.;
  • CIOS Research collection (newsletters, programs, papers etc.);
  • Master Scholars collection;
  • Bibliographies;
  • Descriptions of graduate programs;
  • Instructional materials;
  • Communication and International Development collection;
  • Communication Research & Theory Network (CRTNet) collection;
  • Syllabi for courses in communication.

Hotlines: Hotlines is an electronic conference system (e-mail based) running since 1986, and you can link into and search for people or concepts in the messages contributed to any or all of the various CIOS/Comserve "hotlines". For more information, see the Hotlines pages. You can also join most Hotlines (non-CIOS members may have more limited joining options).

ComWeb MegaSearch: A full-text searchable database of Communication, Journalism, Speech and Rhetoric websites. At the time of writing, this database covered 350 websites (around 86,000 pages).

Affiliation and Contact information: The VCCE actually makes use of four databases of people/institutions. The CIOS White Pages is the primary locator database, but you are also offered the opportunity to search the ICA membership database (which is usually more current). The system also allows you to make use of the CIOS's two membership databases, in the sense of limiting searches by CIOS affiliate insitutions and CIOS individual members.

Dictionary: The dictionary feature uses an instance of the WordNet database developed at Princeton University's Cognitive Science Laboratory.


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