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Issues and Controversies in American History

By Alice Kurtz - Posted Sep 1, 2006
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:4 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Facts On File News Services, 512 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10018; Phone: 800/363-7976; Internet: http://www.facts.com/.

Price: $395—single purchase. Volume pricing available.

Audience: 7th grade-high school.

Format: Online database.

Minimum System Requirements: Computer with browser and Internet access.

Description: Issues and Controversies in American History is a subscription database that covers the great issues throughout history that shaped the United States, from colonial times to the present. The material includes thousands of cross-referenced, hyperlinked entries that examine the events that make up the story of America.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: The online database is accessed with a password and user name. There was no problem getting to the opening pages. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Issues and Controversies in American History enables the in-depth examination of a variety of the formative issues in U.S. history. In addition to specific issues, 12 major themes are explored, among them: the Birth of a Nation, Civil Rights and Liberties, States' Rights, and Foreign Policy and Diplomacy. Each theme can be examined in a particular historical time period or across time.

Users can search for information on various events or issues in U.S. history by subject or date range to find a variety of materials that provide alternate points of view, background information, and outcomes. Also offered are encyclopedia entries, biographies, primary source documents, timelines, images, statistics, and charts. The information can be printed, copied, and saved. Lists of additional Web sites, photographs, maps, timelines, biographies, and statistics are also available. This database can be added to The Reference Suite @ FACTS.com.

Each topic is supported with a wealth of information. The format of the topic page is well organized and the materials are easy to access and use.

The topic page frames the controversy for the user. The issue derived from the topic is clearly expressed in a question. The Civil Rights controversy, for example, is presented with the questions: "Is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a just and necessary means to combat racial discrimination in the South? Or is the act an unlawful federal intrusion on the rights of Southern states and their social traditions?"

An introduction to the issue, cases for and against the issue, discussion questions and activities, and a bibliography of sources accompany the topic and can be accessed by scrolling. Along the left side of the topic page are a series of hyperlinked resources that augment the topic. These include links to the timeline of events and other issues tangential to the main topic, primary sources (excerpts and full-text documents) to support the arguments surrounding the topic, articles of related content, and biographies of individuals involved in the issue.

The primary source titles are hyperlinked. Throughout these documents, terminology and concept terms are also linked to references for ease of use. Photographs and maps support the coverage of the topic.

Searching is not case sensitive; it is accomplished by entering a specific term or phrase in the search box. Searching can be refined with a Boolean search. A date range search for a specific time period is possible.

Each entry offers source citation information. The extensive amount of cross references and hyperlinks for each topic make the database materials richer in content than a print encyclopedia.

Additional features include an array of helpful information for users. A segment titled Need a Research Topic? identifies key themes in American History, isolates the issues, and suggests links for coverage to complete a research project.

Other features include: States at a Glance, This Day in American History, U.S. Facts and Figures, U.S. Political Parties, American History Timelines, a quick reference biography of American presidents, questions, activities, and mock trial information for teachers. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: This database is quite easy to use. The interface is very simple and clear. The searches by keyword or phrase, topic, issues A-Z, and date range are fairly straightforward.

Navigation is very user friendly; a Home and Help button are available on the top of every page. Help offers suggestions for searching, together with an annotated description of each of the database sections. Home returns the user to the starting page of the database.

The main information for each topic is accessed in one long downward scroll. The user does not have to move forward or backward through pages of material. The additional documents and primary source materials for the topic are all hyperlinked from the left-hand side of the topic page. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Product support is available by toll-free telephone (800/363-7976 ext. 4300) between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. Support is also available by e-mail (tech@facts.com) and toll-free fax (800/363-7978, Attn: Facts.com Tech Support). Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Issues and Controversies in American History offers a wide range of data examining the major controversies throughout the history of the United States. The information has been gathered into an easily accessed database of articles and primary source materials.

The straightforward searching and the organization of the materials make the database very user friendly. The highlight of this database is the access to the topical themes that are offered along with corresponding thesis statements.

The explanations, articles, and opposing viewpoints selected to examine the issues provide students with an in-depth understanding of complex historical events. The text is clearly written and hot-linked with background information on related subjects, people, and concepts. Most students in middle school and high school could read and understand the entries without much difficulty.

In addition to its use as a reference tool, the database can be used to teach about the types of sources to consider when seeking complete information on a topic. It can also serve as an excellent model for creating a research topic on a theme. The database would be an excellent tool for researching classroom debates or role-plays on various historical issues.

Issues and Controversies in American History would be a very good addition to a school library's reference collection. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Alice Kurtz, 5/6 grade teacher, Iowa City, IA.


 
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