Making Psychoanalytic Scholarship Accessible:
A Review of the PEP CD-ROM Archive 1 Versions 2 & 3
International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 83(2), 547-550
The PEP CD is an extraordinary achievement. Although I had heard about its growing pains for some years, I had had little access to it until asked to do this review, and had not fully appreciated the extent to which it made psychoanalytic scholarship more available. For a start, it is hard to imagine that this little plastic disc houses the full, searchable text of the key psychoanalytic English-language journals from their first issues: as well as this journal and the former International Review of Psycho-Analysis, the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Quarterly and the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Version 3 has added Psychoanalytic Dialogues and Psychoanalytic Inquiry. However, the disc is much more than the electronic equivalent of a psychoanalytic journal library. The search engine is what really makes the disc a tremendous resource for students, writers and anybody who needs to research any subject in psychoanalysis.
It may be most helpful to take the reader through the experience of using the disc, as a beginner. I am still learning, and sometimes struggling, but I can describe my experience and that of university students of psychoanalytic theory. I particularly wanted the disc for them, I thought it should be ideal for students, in their reading for class, essay writing and dissertation research. So, is it?
To start at the beginning, the installation is relatively simple. The Archive (Version 3) can now be fully downloaded on to the user’s hard drive, provided he/she has enough space (about 700 MB). This means the user does not have to keep the disc in the CD drive and performance is faster. It also means that if, like me, you do most of your work on a laptop, you are not frustrated by having left the disc somewhere else when you need it. For users with too little hard disc space, a ‘compact install’ is available. The program will calculate how much memory the computer has free, and hence which option to use. The only complicated aspect is the registration of the disc. You have to get the registration number, without which the disc will ‘ time out’ after the fifteen-day trial period during which the user can decide whether they want to buy the licence. To get this, you need to email or phone customer service in the US or UK . This can be fine, as the customer service person can talk you through installation and licensing. Generally, though, it would be preferable to be able to register on the website. The disc is registered for one machine. Were I to be using a laptop as well as a desktop, or desktops at home and office, this would be a real inconvenience. Although it is permitted for a private user to buy up to two further licences for other computers, at a reasonable cost, some may be irritated by this restriction.
In use, the disc is surprisingly fast. Most people find it very easy to find a particular journal, volume, issue and article. The text displayed on screen is perfectly legible, although of course not as pleasant to read as the original journal. (All sorts of options exist for printing out the articles, but this is not intuitive for many new users, as I will describe later.) Reading electronically does have some advantages, while still allowing some traditional habits (for example, one can easily highlight and annotate text). It is very easy to chase up a reference, if one knows it is likely to have been mentioned in another article. References in the text are hyperlinked to the bibliography of the article, pointing to the reference then opens a window that gives the full citation. If the article is in the database, it appears in red and clicking on it brings the article itself up on to the screen. This is one of the most popular features for students and teachers, offering an enormous saving of time if you need to track ideas through a series of papers.
Another real asset for writing is the copy and paste function. One can highlight a piece of text and copy it into another document as a quotation. As the original page numbering is shown in the text, the exact source is easily cited. The full paper, or a set of related papers found in a search, can be printed out. Some new users find this quite straightforward, but others find it very frustrating. It requires a grasp of how the program works, which some do not find straightforward, even with practice (I must admit this included me until I discovered the Help file, see later). The main complaint about printing is that you have to mark the articles you want to print in a separate screen and then unmark them. The London telephone support adviser explains:
The procedure is slightly complicated because the article not only has to be chosen first, but in the print dialogue box, the box next to the article title needs to be ticked in order to be printed successfully. Also, after printing, this tick needs to be removed before any new printing can be done during a single session. Otherwise the same article will be printed over and over again.
I can confirm this, and so can my printer. Students would like to be able to print articles as you do a Word document: just click a ‘print’ icon with the cursor in the article you want to print, or specify a range of files in the print dialogue box. I suppose the ticking and un-ticking would allow you to print out the results of your searches cumulatively at the end of the session, but this is not intuitive. The magic of the disc is its searching capacity. I have only begun to explore its most obvious functions, but even these are impressive. The occasional experience of a brick wall when something apparently cannot be done (and the solution, when found, does not seem to make sense) is far outweighed by the pleasure every time it delivers. Say a student comes into my office to ask me about references for an essay on psychoanalytic ideas about creativity. I want to find a review article that will start him/her off on a good track. I enter the word creativity in the box at the bottom of the search screen. Up comes a
list of references: author names, dates, titles and journals, in order of the frequency with which the word creativity appears in the text. I identify three or four relatively recent papers that look like good starting points for a review of the subject. I simply double-click on the references, quickly check that they look useful and print them out. The student leaves dazzled and satisfied, within fifteen minutes, and without realising (I trust) that I know less than I ought to about psychoanalytic ideas about creativity. He/she has what he/she wanted. Even better, once the students have access to the disc, they can go through this process, and much further exploration, by themselves. It is not a substitute for actual scholarship (or creativity for that matter), but it helps a lot.
Of course, the search could be far more complicated. The PEP database provides a number of templates, which are like short forms to fill in, to find a particular paper or group of papers. For example, what papers did Winnicott publish before 1950? I enter ‘ Winnicott’ into the author field and specify ‘ less than 1950′ in the date field. Up comes a list of nine references. I can then cut and paste the bibliography into a word processing package. The ‘create bibliography’ function is a much-needed addition in Version 3. The bibliography can be printed quite easily and even emailed to a colleague. A handy feature is being able to specify the type of article, for instance book reviews, obituaries or letters. One is even supposed to be able to restrict a search to the content of reported dreams; however, I tried this and could not make it work. Searching can be set to exclude references or search terms can be combined. The program searches for words close together and within a single paragraph.
The number of ‘ hits’ is helpfully displayed so that the user knows when they have arrived at a manageable number of references. For example, ‘ transference’ yields 9,600 articles; with the term ‘ borderline’ , this is reduced to 698. Further restricting the search by the term ‘ Klein’ yields only 22 references. Looking these up, the authors one might expect appear: Grinberg, Kernberg, Masterson, Rosenfeld, Segal, Sandler and others. In Version 3, the ways of searching the disc seem to have been revamped, so that they are fewer but highly versatile. You can also turn to the table of authors or journals if you prefer to browse like this; in Version 3, these tables appear when you click on ‘ Quick Access’ in the Welcome window.
A research student who used the database extensively found the process of downloading articles into another file cumbersome (for instance, it may be very helpful to import the text into Word, to use other powerful writing features available there). In order to do this you have to select the whole text, scrolling down and then do copy/paste, which is tiresome, especially if you need to download several papers. Ideally, you would be able to mark the articles you want to download (on the list of records from your search) and then just export them in a file (as is possible in other bibliographic databases such as PsychLit). Another student comments on his frustration that the most recent journals are excluded (articles are added up to about three years before the release of each disc, presumably to protect journal incomes). He suggested that a web-based database including at least the abstracts of more recent articles would be very helpful to make a literature review comprehensive. He adds that
it would be helpful, even for older papers, if it were possible to choose to list abstracts rather than full article text; in this way a large number of hits could be scanned quickly, then one could switch to full text for a more limited set of papers. It would also be wonderful if it were possible to import a lot of references into one of the reference database packages such as Endnote or Reference Manager. However, these features would be icing on an already rich cake; the PEP database as it stands is an astonishingly useful resource and time-saver. Although for this reason it is good value, students joined me in regretting that the database is too expensive for many individuals, and even libraries may find the network versions too costly (for instance, the UCL library would not buy it although we have about 75 students of psychoanalysis and it would have saved shelf and storage space).
When I talked to Kristiina Jalas (who is the London telephone support person and an ex-student of ours) about this review, she suggested that I emphasise that the tutorial and Help file (on the CD ROM and website) help users tremendously. I was recommended to look at that to make sure I understood how the database works. Of course, despite having had the disc for at least a year, I had never looked at the Help file (she knew that, because I had just telephoned her whenever stuck). I found it extremely clear and easy to follow, anticipating all of the problems my students and I had experienced, sympathetically walking the user through the solutions. In fact, in less than half an hour I had doubled the number of things I knew how to do with the database. I do recommend that others
similarly try to overcome any aversion to instruction manuals and follow the tutorial and/or use the Help file. There are step-by-step instructions for many common tasks, with easily followed examples. In addition, support.p-e-p.org is regularly updated with many Frequently Asked Questions, with answers to new difficulties encountered by customers. It also tells you when things cannot be done, which is helpful! It would be a waste of the amazingly devoted work of the developers of this disc not to invest a short time discovering how easily it allows one to access almost eighty years’ worth of full-text original articles, in all the major psychoanalytic journals, whether looking for something specific, reading round a subject or just browsing for pleasure.
Sub-Department of Clinical Health Psychology
University College London
Copyright © Institute of Psychoanalysis , London , 2002
1 I would like to thank the past and present students on the MSc in Theoretical Psychoanalytic Studies at University College London for their useful feedback. I would particularly like to thank one of our first MSc graduates, Ms Kristiina Jalas, whose experience in manning the local PEP customer support and running demonstrations while pursuing doctoral studies in psychoanalytic theory, generously helped to identify which of my difficulties were common and which peculiar to me.