British Studies Web Pages


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Website of the Month - April 2003

·        The Guardian + The Observer

·        The Times + The Sunday Times

Value for ELT: texts for advanced reading / contemporary issues/ culture background/ culture projects/ general interest/ British Studies

Producer of sites (and intended audience)

The newspapers themselves for their readers. The sites in general seem to be market driven and the public are benefiting from the competition - obviously the newspapers risk losing readers of the paper edition but no doubt also hope to gain some too. The quality is good and the range of information available on a daily basis is huge. It is not obvious if they make money from the sites. These sites will certainly continue to change.

Description of sites

Both sites are a very good demonstration of how to organise a very large amount of information clearly and effectively - but it will take you some time to learn to find your way around.

The Guardian + The Observer

The site is known as Guardian Unlimited. In addition to news there are homepage links to arts/ books/ business/ education/ film/ football/ jobs/ money/ politics/ shopping/ society/ sport/ travel. The Observer still has a separate website but the links are fully integrated and there is no need to separately enter it. Under The Wrap you can find how other newspapers report major issues.

The Times + The Sunday Times

A very full site with The Times Literary Supplement (TLS), The Times Educational Supplement (TES), and The Times Higher Educational Supplement (THES) available too though all are in fact published as separate weekly newspapers. On the left side many links to different parts of the paper can be found. The Sunday Times is fully integrated.

Accessibility *****G *T

The rest of the review refers only to the respective archives, and the ratings refer only to what is available free

The Guardian

You will find the archive on the left near the top of the homepage. Click and it will tell you:

Use this search engine to access all Guardian and Observer articles which appeared on the network from September 1, 1998. Please note that a small number of articles that appeared in the Guardian are omitted from our archive, usually for copyright reasons.

The search engine is very simple to use without any unnecessary distracting options.

The Times

You will find the link to the archive at the top left of the homepage. Click and ‘Welcome to our digital newspaper library’ it announces at the top and ‘your free archive search’ below. This is more than a little misleading as all you get is a taster from the opening sentence which can be frustrating, and only one page of results (20 items - though it helpfully tells you how many others you are missing!). Here is an example on the film The Pianist for you to get an idea:

The hardest act; Arts; Interview; Adrien Brody

INTERVIEW ADRIEN BRODY TELLS STEPHEN DALTON WHY HIS LATEST ROLE TOOK IT OUT OF HIM WITH HIS HAUNTED stare, dark good looks and quietly simmering intensity, Adrien Brody fits the archetype of the starving artist. But for his latest film, Roman Polanski...

If you pay the (very expensive) subscription this is what you get - and what you do not get.

If you need an accurate record of an event or story at your fingertips, we can deliver just that. Our service provides an entire library of articles dating back to 1985, giving you the opportunity to obtain primary sources of information from two of the world's leading newspapers. For ease and efficiency, the database is presented to you in a text only format. If you would like photographs from previous issues, please contact our photo library.

A figure of 10p/ article is quoted - this is a marketing device - do not be fooled. To get an article at this price you have to be a bulk user and paying £2000/ annum. As an individual user the cheapest is 50p/ article if you pay £200/ annum. The cheapest is 10 downloads at £10 (with no photos) - this has to be described as a disgrace both for the price and that you cannot see what you are buying.

An archive ‘test drive’

A search was made for Polanski and The Pianist on both archives, as both newspapers could be expected to have as many items as each other. The Guardian found 65 items and The Times 11, which suggests The Times search engine works more effectively. This is seemingly by requiring the searched-for phrases to occur in the opening sentences whereas in The Guardian it could be in the whole article. Certainly in some of The Guardian articles the reference was very tangential indeed - it was not possible of course to read The Times articles! Both give results in reverse chronological order - the most recent first.

Search hints

For both the archives the search will find articles containing the phrase you type in. The Guardian will give you more articles, but more useless ones too - annoying but unavoidable - you must develop your scanning skills to waste as little time as possible. Try to be as specific as you can and preferably request all the main items you are searching for e.g. Polanski and The Pianist. There is the chance to specify the year, month or even the day.

Remember if you want Tony Blair on Iraq, type in Tony Blair and Iraq not Tony Blair, Iraq - this second will produce all examples of both - not only those where they occur together in the same article, which is what you want. Pay attention to case sensitive terms like the Budget and use the upper case.
Range of themes covered *****G/ *****T

Enormous - much, much more than news e.g. travel/ gardening/ the arts/ sport/ etc etc etc

Language level

Native proficiency - advanced

Value for students  

Age:  13+ * 16+ *** 19+ ***** G/ *T Lang. level:  pre-int/ int ** upper-int/ adv ***** G/ *T

For individual interest for those coming to the end of Liceum and with a good knowledge of English, or hunting materials for projects. May well need guidance from a teacher to use the sites effectively for research.

Value for teachers *****G *T

Considerable - but you need to know how to find your way round (this takes time), and become familiar with archive searching and its weaknesses (this takes time too). Probably you will be encouraging your students to use it when they ask ‘unanswerable’ questions or as a source of updating information, but you may well need to advise them on how to use it. Students may be very familiar and competent with games for example but have no idea at all how to use the internet for research purposes. Good for downloading items to use as texts for advanced reading, and for tests with a guarantee that no one will know what you have chosen. Although not useful directly for younger students, items could still be adapted as many are short, with accompanying pictures, and all have headlines from which you could introduce their content. Primarily a source of up-to-date information.

Overall value *****G *T

All the ratings for The Times site refer to the archive and what is available free. In very many ways these sites are more effective than a search engine as they are news rather than site-centred. If you have already found websites connected with a theme (e.g. ‘adoption’ or ‘rugby’) on this archive you can find the critical commentary that an ‘adoption’ or ‘rugby’ site would not provide on itself + the most up-to-date issues. The journalism complements and gives a critical view whereas the specific websites themselves are likely to give the basic description of how ‘adoption’ or ‘rugby’ are actually organised in the UK. For some of the issues involving the interpretation of newspaper items see How to … work with newspapers.

If you know what you are looking for - these sites are excellent; if you like browsing - you can find hours of online distraction. Sites like these are in fact as good as you make them. The subscription rate to The Times archive however is far beyond the value of what you will get, punishing the individual user, and with The Guardian archive remaining free (and a newspaper of equivalent stature), there is absolutely no need to use it.

Similar sites

See Newspaper links for a wide range of newspaper sites all of which have some form of archive

·    The Independent + The Sunday Independent

·    The Daily Telegraph + The Sunday Telegraph

Polish equivalent sites

Produced in Poland by British Council © 2003. The United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.