Islamic Context of Electronic Encyclopedias in English Language: A Critical Evaluation
A systematic evaluation of Islam and Muslim world in electronic encyclopedias was conducted by using two-dimensional criteria: searching and technological capabilities, and qualitative evaluation of their content. The factors used to assess searching and technological capabilities are related to direct link, hypertext, related articles, illustration, multimedia, Boolean searching, Internet links, and search history. Content evaluation was conducted in relation to length, scope, treatment level, currency, accuracy, bias, presentation, authorship, and bibliographic documentation. The researchers identified topics that are expected to be valid indicators of the coverage and treatment of Islam and the Muslim world. Some topics are related to theological doctrines, while the others pertained to socio-historical themes. Altogether 21 topics were searched in each title. Five encyclopedias used the same terminology for certain topics, while broader or narrower terms were used for other titles. Total articles thus identified were in the range of 13 to 19. As the search was conducted for a topic, search-related data were noted. Printouts of the identified articles were obtained, and evaluated against specific criteria. It has been found that each encyclopedia has its specific strengths in regard to software and searching capabilities. In content evaluation, it was found that about 30-40% of articles in each encyclopedia had problems with regard to accuracy of information objectivity, coverage, and presentation.