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Digital archives of historical primary source materials prove to be vital for researchers and students in diverse disciplines

CAMBRIDGE, UK, April 8, 2016 – Across the UK, use of ProQuest’s flagship Early English Books Online (EEBO) and House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (HCPP) is steadily increasing, according to a new joint study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute on behalf of ProQuest and Jisc.

  • EEBO makes more than 130,000 historic books discoverable through a platform built specifically for scholarly research.
  • HCPP is a digitized vast, authoritative archive of UK government documents spanning 1715 to today.

The increased usage is among the findings from Impacts of Digital Collections, a study commissioned to assess and verify the teaching and research value of these key online primary source archives.

Access the full study.

Depth and breadth of the study

Impacts of Digital Collections combines usage statistics from 2004-2015 gathered from UK institutions that subscribe to EEBO and HCCP with publicly available data from the 2014 Research Excellence Framework and information from Jisc’s Historical Texts platform.

Interviews and a survey were also conducted with academic users of the two resources, as well as with librarians from both Russell Group and non-Russell Group institutions.

Results show that Early English Books Online and House of Commons Parliamentary Papers have become a fundamental part of everyday scholarly research in the humanities. “EEBO and HCPP as primary resources contribute to incremental changes in teaching and research practice and have become, together with others, fundamental resources in modern scholarship. Jisc is investigating new approaches to ensure the community will continue to have the widest possible access to such collections in the future”, notes Paola Marchionni, Head of Digital Resources for Teaching, Learning and Research at Jisc.

Other key findings show that:

  • While researchers at top universities are most likely to use EEBO and HCPP, less research-intensive Higher Education institutions also benefit from both collections.
  • About 97% of the respondents report that specific databases and collections are an important method of discovering primary sources.
  • Literature citations are growing for EEBO and HCPP. The articles citing these online resources are also reasonably well-cited.
  • The range of disciplines that refer to EEBO and HCPP is more varied than expected. While English Literature, Philosophy and History are key disciplines, both EEBO and HCPP are also referenced in dissertations covering Music, Theatre, Political Science, Anthropology and Women’s Studies.
  • Data science and data-driven research are of growing interest to humanities scholars, with plenty of room for growth, particularly in teaching.

Because humanities is such a diverse field, resource usage has traditionally been a challenge for scholars and faculty seeking specific information. But, according to the report, “The digitisation of materials such as EEBO unlocks astonishing special collections, allowing the scholar to roam in and out of the archive at will, and giving them the freedom to examine any text they like, to explore computationally or serendipitously.”

Serving today’s scholars

The UK provides national-level access across institutions through Jisc’s national purchasing program. Impacts of Digital Collections was made possible due to Jisc’s purchases and community-building models and has resulted in findings that confirm the fundamental role online primary source collections now play in facilitating modern scholarship.

“[The study] enables ProQuest and Jisc to better understand the relevance and importance of historical online primary source information and how it is used by researchers and students,” said Susan Bokern, ProQuest Vice President, Product Management, “EEBO and HCPP are clearly playing an influential role within many key research disciplines at diverse academic institutions. ProQuest is committed to using these results to continue to develop our digitised collections so they support improved teaching practice and research outcomes.”

About Jisc (

Jisc is the UK higher, further education and skills sectors’ not-for-profit organisation for digital services and solutions.

We operate:

  • shared digital infrastructure and services
  • negotiate sector-wide deals with IT vendors and commercial publishers and
  • provide trusted advice and practical assistance for universities, colleges and learning providers.

About Oxford Internet Institute (

The report was authored by Eric T. Meyer (Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies) and Kathryn Eccles (Research Fellow and Digital Humanities Champion, both of the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, in partnership with Oxford University Consulting. The Oxford Internet Institute was founded as a department of the University of Oxford in 2001, and is a world-renowned academic centre for the study of the societal implications of the Internet. The OII’s research faculty, academic visitors, students, and research associates are engaged in a variety of research projects covering social, economic, political, legal, industrial, technical and ethical issues of the Internet in everyday life; governance and democracy; science, humanities, arts and learning; and shaping the Internet. Oxford University Consulting is the academic consultancy arm of the University and a division of Isis Innovation. It draws upon the depth and breadth of Oxford’s world-class multidisciplinary research base to provide answers to many of the challenges faced by organisations today.

About ProQuest (

ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company’s products are a gateway to the world’s knowledge including dissertations, governmental and cultural archives, news, historical collections and ebooks. ProQuest technologies serve users across the critical points in research, helping them discover, access, share, create and manage information.

The company’s cloud-based technologies offer flexible solutions for librarians, students and researchers through the ProQuest®, Bowker®, Coutts® information services, Dialog®, ebrary®, EBL™, and SIPX® businesses – and notable research tools such as the Summon® discovery service, the RefWorks® citation and reference management platform, MyiLibrary® ebook platform, the Pivot® research development tool and Intota™. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with offices around the world.

08 April 2016

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