Roundup of Subject Guides and Directories

Gwen Harris’s post about the WWW Virtual Library — a directory of recommended web resources in various subject areas started back in the day by Tim Berners-Lee — inspired me to do a quick roundup of a few of the most useful and well-kept subject guides and directories I’m aware of.

In the early days of the world wide web, when the number of websites was small, directories were common and extremely useful in locating websites in an organized way. Perhaps the best-known one was Yahoo!, which was a hierarchical directory before it was a search engine (it still maintains a directory). Today, with billions of websites online, directories and subject guides are arguably even more important to help direct us to vetted, high-quality sources of information and save us from flailing around on search engines. As Gwen notes, however, subject guides/directories are a dying breed because of the amount of work involved in their upkeep.

Some of the guides that are updated regularly include:

  • The Virtual Private Library: A massive (almost overwhelming!) list of resources, branded as Subject Tracers, on a number of research topics. If you’re looking for comprehensiveness rather than curation, these lists are chock-full of links in various subject areas.
  • Toddington’s Free Online Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Resources: A compendium to their paid knowledge base, this page lists links to useful resources in a number of categories, to help online research and investigative professionals.
  • University library sites: University libraries sites provide wonderful guides and pathfinders to reliable research resources. While the material tends to be academic and scholarly (obviously) and is often limited to the library system’s holdings, they can provide research direction for an unfamiliar subject area, and with a little resourcefulness, one can often access the material in other collections. The University of Toronto Libraries Research Guides and the Harvard Library Research Guides are two good ones, or search for “LibGuides” and your subject area of interest to find others.

What are some of your favourite subject guides and directories?

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