The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi: A Bibliometric Study in Scholarly Journals
The term “Civil Rights Movement” refers to an extended period of American history in which African Americans struggled to become free of the tyranny of slavery, and then fought for equal opportunity and the protection of the civil rights guaranteed
through the United States Constitution. The movement actually began during the period of the Revolutionary War, but many people acknowledge the era following the United States'
(and its' African American soldiers') involvement in World War II as the
point when activism became widespread. It would finally accomplish many
Mississippi was one of those areas, and consequently, was the focus of much of the activists’ attention. Many events, such as the murder of Emmett Till, Mississippi's refusal
to integrate public schools, and the assassination of Medgar Evars
The Civil Rights Movement was an important period in the history of Mississippi and the United States. Even today, many people (especially in the Deep South) have very strong feelings and emotions attached to the era, whether they actually experienced it or not. No major bibliometric studies on this topic in scholarly journals could readily be found, and there are some questions that could be answered by a study on this subject matter. Are there more articles being published from one geographic area, or from one time period? Do most of these articles come from a core group of authors? Do many of the articles about civil rights in Mississippi appear in certain journals? Answering these questions will not only further the bibliometric research on the topic, but also reiterate the importance of the topic itself in the history of the United States, as well as in Mississippi.
The purpose of this study is to research the publication pattern of articles related to Mississippi and the Civil Rights Movement in scholarly journals. Its intent is to determine the growth (or non-growth) of the literature, core authorship of the literature, and the origin and geographic distribution within the Unites States of scholarly articles on the above subject matter.
In an attempt to answer the above research questions, this study includes all articles that meet certain criteria. It should be noted that this is a pilot study, which will serve as the
basis for further research on this topic; the scope of this paper is
The following are terms, places, or people that are most likely to appear frequently in articles on the subject of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, and therefore, should be familiarized for the research involved with this study:
In performing this study, some basic assumptions were made about the databases used and the articles found. It is assumed that the databases provide complete and accurate information pertinent to the study. It is also assumed that the articles within the databases are properly indexed, allowing all relevant articles to be retrieved. It is further assumed that the key words used in the search are included in articles on the topic of civil rights in Mississippi. Finally, this study assumes that the combination of databases and key words used provides precise and inclusive results that are representative of the body of work on the subject.
Bibliometric study emerged in the 1960s, making it a very recent subset to the field of library and information science. The idea of studying journal articles to perform a citation analysis and using this information to gain ideas about a journal, author, or topic was a natural progression from earlier types of research in the field. However, computerization was in its early stages, and bibliometrics as it is known today, with the use of databases and citation indexes, did not exist until very recently. Librarians and other researchers are still learning how to use the information garnered from bibliometric study, but its implications are positive, and more and more experts are acknowledging its place in research, and are using bibliometrics in their own fields (Epstein, 2005).
While there is an abundance of literature related to the topic of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, there are no bibliometric studies readily available on this particular subject. However, the methodology used in this study has been employed in the past by authors researching various other topics. The following articles were chosen as examples because they contain at least two aspects of the methodology used in this research project and they provide references to performing such studies using electronic resources.
In a 2002 study, Wiberly, Hurd, and Weller researched the publication patterns of academic librarians during a four-year time period. The authors chose databases that would contain information pertinent to their topic and limited their searches to retrieve articles published between 1998 and 2002. Also, the researchers were careful to exclude material presented at conferences and proceedings and focused their efforts on articles appearing in scholarly journals. The purpose of this bibliometric study was to determine authorship patterns of academic librarians. The research indicated that sole authorship constituted the majority of scholarly articles written by academic librarians from 1998 to 2002. Of those that were co-authored, a vast majority were written by no more than two academic librarians.
To determine the growth of literature, which is one of the research objectives of this study, it is necessary to include sources from a broader period to track the publication rate of research articles over time. A 2006 study on bibliometric literature used the time frame of 1969 to 2005 to accomplish this goal. The authors chose to search Library & Information Science Abstracts database, for which 1969 to 2005 is the full range of coverage. Specific keyword searches were used, and the researchers then noted information that could help indicate the growth (or non-growth) of literature, as well as the core journals, authorship patterns, and language distribution. The results of this study point to a steady growth of literature in recent years, attributed by the author to an increase of interest and participation in the field of bibliometrics (Patra, Bhattacharya, and Verma, 2006).
Another goal of this research is to determine the geographic distribution of articles related to the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and whether this has changed over time. The publication location of the journals and, whenever possible, the location of the authors will serve to indicate if there is a region of the country that shows more interest in researching the topic than others.
A similar methodology was employed by Mitha and Leach (2006) in their study to determine the geographic distribution of literature related to HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The authors were interested in where much of the research originated. Mitha and Leach chose two pertinent databases and limited their searches to a specific time period. The data retrieved showed evidence that most of the literature on HIV/AIDS in South Africa originated from within the country itself.
Anwar’s 2006 bibliometric study researched the core authorship, literature patterns, and geographic origins of literature with the date palm as its topic. By identifying several large libraries that contain extensive collections of electronic resources with articles on the subject, the author hoped to access a complete and accurate picture of the literature. By including only full text articles and excluding duplicates and records with incomplete information, the author was able to better determine core authorship and literature. The author’s data supported a rise in publication which peaked in 1989, and leveled off in later years. In addition, single authorship of articles on this subject was rare, indicating an increase in interest of a larger group of people during the time period of this study.
For the purposes of this study, and given the historical nature of the topic being researched, the databases selected were those most likely to contain the largest number of scholarly articles in the field of history. The general EBSCO database Academic Search Premier was searched, as well as the more subject-specific America: History and Life (which includes Historical Abstracts) and JSTOR. In keeping with the stated scope of this study, it was necessary to limit the search, whenever possible, to full text and scholarly (or peer-reviewed) journals, as well as the time frame designated for this study (1980–2000). These limitations served to help exclude any unwanted or unnecessary articles that might skew the results of this study. In JSTOR, there is also an option to choose what subject areas the researcher wishes to search, and African American Studies and History were selected for the searches performed in that database. Because of the sizeable number of people, places, and events that are related to the topic of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, as well as the limitations set forth for this study, it was necessary to use broader key word searches in order to retrieve the largest number of applicable articles that reflect the body of literature on this subject. Using the database subscriptions of the University of Southern Mississippi, the following key word searches were performed in each database and the results noted:
DATA COMPILATION AND ANALYSIS
In order to create an accurate compilation of articles it was vital to exclude all articles appearing in more than one of the databases searched or, more likely, that were retrieved by searching for more than one of the key word combinations. The specific number of unduplicated and applicable articles was noted, as well as the year published, author’s name, and the name of the journal in which the article appeared. Further research was required to determine the geographic location of the journals. Determining the geographic location of the journals was done in order to establish whether there are regions of the United States that produce more research on this topic. The locations of publication were determined by visiting the web sites of the journals, or, if necessary, referring to Ulrich’s Periodicals database.
Once gathered, pertinent data were entered into separate spreadsheets created for each aspect of the study. These spreadsheets were then examined in an attempt to establish publication patterns and/or determine the core authorship and the journals that published the most articles related to civil rights in Mississippi. Finally, “Periodical Title” searches were performed in Anna, the University of Southern Mississippi’s catalog to see if the library had holdings of the journals pertinent to this study. USM boasts a very large amount of civil rights materials in print, which makes the collection a good candidate for analysis to see if it contains the core literature on the subject. The results of the research were placed into charts to be more easily viewed and interpreted.
The methodology of this study was devised to gather data that points to conclusions to specific questions. It is the goal of the study to determine publication patterns of articles on the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. These publication patterns include the number of articles published in the specified time frame, the journals in which these articles appeared, and the geographic origin of the journals. Authorship patterns were also researched, in an effort to determine whether the applicable articles were single authorship articles or co-authored, and whether a core authorship group could be determined from the articles included. Finally, the collection of the University of Southern Mississippi was analyzed to establish whether it contained physical holdings of the journals in which the articles included in this study appeared. The results of each individual research question are detailed below.
Research Question #1: How many articles were published on this topic from 1980–2000?
The searches performed in the selected databases yielded 209 unduplicated articles that met the criteria for inclusion in this study. The time period of 1980 to 2000 was further divided into smaller periods of five to six years to analyze the growth (or non-growth) of the literature over time. The data showed that there were 112 articles published between the years of 1996 and 2006, 41 from 1991 to 1995, 32 between 1986 and 1990, and 24 from 1980 to 1985. Figure 1 shows the progression of the literature from 1980 to 2000, and indicates a continued growth of articles on the subject matter, with a large increase of literature beginning in 1996.
Research Question #2: Which journals published articles on this topic?
The 209 articles that were analyzed for this study appeared in 59 scholarly journals that met the criteria outlined earlier. The data suggests a core literature group, as seven of the journals contained 118 of the articles (56.5%), with one journal alone publishing 31 of the articles (14.8%). Each journal studied is listed below, as well as the number of articles it contained.
Table 1. Journals and Number of Articles on Civil Rights and Mississippi
In addition, the journals were examined to determine if particular disciplines published more articles than others. Journals were assigned disciplines based on their listed Library of Congress subject headings as found by searching either the University of Southern Mississippi catalog or the Worldcat database. Of the 59 journals in this study, 22 of them fell under the History category, amounting to 37.3% (Table 2).
Table 2. Discipline and Number of Articles on Civil Rights and Mississippi
(Note: Journals may appear in more than one discipline.)
Research Question #3: What is the geographic distribution of the journals containing articles on this subject?
Another objective of this study was to see if the data suggested a pattern regarding the geographic origin of the journals that published articles on the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. It was a goal of the study to gather enough evidence to propose whether journals from specific regions of the United States published more articles on this topic. Interestingly, only one journal in the results, Mississippi Quarterly, was published in Mississippi. After the place of publication was noted, each journal was grouped by its designated region of the United States. Journals originating in the Northeast published the most articles with 26, followed by the Southeast with 15, the Midwest with 10, and the Southwest with 7. Only one journal from the Northwest published an article on civil rights in Mississippi in the time frame of 1980-2000. Figure 2 illustrates the percentage of journals from each region. Further research could determine if this distribution is characteristic of the overall distribution of all U.S. journals.
Research Question #4: What are the authorship patterns of articles on this topic?
Authorship patterns were also studied in the course of this research. The data retrieved showed that the 209 articles in this study were authored by 140 different authors, and only 19 articles were co-authored. Of those 19 articles, 13 were written by two authors, five were written by three authors, and just one was written by four authors. This is indicative of a lack of group research and publishing on this topic, which could be the result of a variety of factors. A core group of authors was difficult to determine from this particular set of documents, possibly because of the limitations of this pilot study, which may not have produced complete results. It is also feasible that this type of research is not as conducive to collaboration as other fields. Further research could suggest a more conclusive answer. However, there were some repeat authors in the data gathered for this study. Repeat authors constituted 12.9% of the authors represented in this study, and they wrote 39 of the 209 total articles, amounting to 18.7%. These 18 repeat authors and the number of times they published are listed in Table 3.
Table 3. Authors of More than One Article on Civil Rights and Mississippi
Research Question #5: Does the University of Southern Mississippi library system have holdings of the journals that published articles on this topic?
All of the journals contained in this study were accessed through database subscriptions of the University of Southern Mississippi. However, it was one goal of the study to perform a collection analysis of USM’s holdings. These physical copies may be hard copies or in microform format, so long as they were housed in the library. A “Periodical Title” search in USM’s catalog, Anna, revealed that the University of Southern Mississippi has physical copies of 54 of the 59 journals relevant to this research, which translates to 91.5%. Many of the journal titles are available in both print and microform editions, although the format available might differ from year to year. USM did not have holdings of Reviews in American History, Western Journal of Black Studies, African American Studies, Journal of Early Republic, and Peace and Change.
Summary of Results and Possible Conclusions
According to the data retrieved by this methodology of research, there has been a steady increase in the number of articles published between the years of 1980 and 1995, followed by a sharp increase of 273% from 1996 to 2000. This could be the result of more interest in researching the topic, but it could also be a result of the specifics of the University of Southern Mississippi’s database subscriptions. Because of the limited scope of this study, only full-text articles
As stated earlier, a core group of journals publishing articles on this topic stood out when looking at the data, as seven of the 59 journals in this study published 56.5% of the articles. The top seven journals were the Journal of Southern History, Journal of Negro History, Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Journal of American History, Agricultural History, Mississippi Quarterly, and Journal of Black Studies. When looking at the titles of these journals, it is not a surprising list. Three of the journals are geared toward African American studies, four fall under the category of history, and two have decidedly Southern themes.
In addition, when looking at all the journals in this study, the research suggests that the majority of the articles were published in journals with historical themes, followed by the African American studies category. Interestingly, the category of Sociology contained the third most articles, and finally Education and Social Studies. The data indicates that authors are not simply writing about the facts tied to the events, but are also trying to analyze and learn from what happened in Mississippi's past.
The majority of journals in this study (44.07%) were published in the Northeast. The Southeast was second with 25.42%. This could point to a continued reluctance of Southern journals to deal with the subject matter, because of racial tensions that still exist in this region of the United States. However, two of the seven core journals are published in the South --one of them in Mississippi. Another possibility is that there are simply more journals published in the Northeast than in any other region, making the region dominant in every field, which could skew the results.
The data used to examine authorship tendencies do not show any clear pattern. Of the 140 authors that published the articles studied, only 18 were repeat authors, and only three of these published more than twice on the topic. Also, the vast majority of the articles were written by single authors. It is possible that some articles written by some of these authors were discarded, either because they were not available full text, or because they were published in a journal or cited in a database that was not included in the study.
During the basic collection analysis of the holdings of the University of Southern Mississippi library system, a search in the catalog revealed that USM owned 54 of the 59 journals in this study, amounting to an overwhelming 91.5%. It is not surprising that a Mississippi university would have a strong collection of materials on the Civil Rights Movement, particularly when much of the activity occurred within the borders of the state. This information points to a concentrated effort on the part of the university to include as many sources as possible on the subject.
Suggestions for Further Research
While this study gathered data that indicated many conclusions about the publication and authorship patterns of articles dealing with the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, there were also some unanswered questions that leave room for further research. The sharp increase in publication of articles from 1996–2000 could be the result of several factors, and more research into how far back each journal is available electronically might give a tentative answer. A researcher might want to extend the time period back another ten or twenty years, to get a longer, more complete view of the publication pattern. It would also be interesting to see whether the titles within the core group of journals were in publication for the entire length of the study. The information regarding the geographic distribution of the journals could also be further researched to determine the ratio of scholarly journals pertinent to the academic categories included in this study for all of the regions.
In terms of authorship patterns, it might be prudent to more thoroughly research each author, and create a bibliography of their work to determine if there were any articles published on this topic that were overlooked by this research, or to calculate the percentage of articles on civil rights when compared to other articles published by the author. A study could also be performed to determine if these authorship patterns are typical of other subjects in the humanities. Finally, a more complex collection analysis of the University of Southern Mississippi’s holdings of these journals could reveal a pattern of available formats, or be used to compare how their collection of civil rights materials compares to other collections at comparable universities.
This research was intended to serve as a pilot study to produce hypotheses for further research. The data gathered by this study points to several conclusions regarding the research questions posed. There has clearly been an increase in the number of articles published on the topic of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, suggesting that interest has increased over the years. However, these articles have been published within a definite core group of journals, pointing to their willingness over other journals to deal with the subject matter. In terms of geographic distribution, there is a very evident majority of the articles being published in the Northeast section of the United States, which might illustrate continuing racial tensions in the South. Further research will be done to clarify the questions brought to light by this initial study.
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Leigh Allison Iovino is an Information Services Specialist at the University of Southern Mississippi Libraries
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