Purpose – Scholarly monographs are a major information resource in the humanities. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of abstracting and indexing (A&I) databases and library catalogues (OPACs) for subject retrieval of these monographs.
Design/methodology/approach – A sample of monographs in philosophy was checked in the Philosopher's Index database and in library OPACs to establish how many subject terms were assigned per page of text.
Findings – The results highlighted the inadequate indexing of monographs in these databases. Various methods of improving subject access are discussed, including enriched subject content of database records. The search potential of full-text databases is examined, with specific reference to two such databases, Oxford Scholarship Online and JSTOR.
Practical implications – It is suggested that current and planned digitization projects need to incorporate improved search facilities, either by automatic generation of subject-rich document surrogates, or by the incorporation of author-generated metadata.
Originality/value – This paper clarifies the current problems related to subject retrieval of scholarly monographs at a time when the launch of major digitization projects calls for urgent attention to this issue.