Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1998


gender Inn

Introduction: What is gender Inn?

gender Inn is a database, currently containing some 5700 bibliographic records pertaining to feminist theory, gender studies and feminist literary criticism with a strong focus on British and American literature. Great emphasis is placed upon the inclusion of general resources and introductory texts in feminist theory. Because of the database's interdisciplinary orientation, feminist literature on pedagogy, sociology, history and psychology is also included. The database only covers monographs and essay collections. Journal articles are only included in special cases.

gender Inn puts great emphasis on the careful indexing of documents. Up to 20 keywords are assigned to every document, using a specifically developed keyword index (feminist thesaurus).

The database's WWW-pages are available both in German and English.


gender Inn started out in 1987 as a research project connected to the chair of Professor Natascha Würzbach at the English Department, University of Cologne. In its beginnings, this collection aimed at providing students with detailed information about those books on women's studies that were available at the University and department libraries.

With the growing number of resources came the idea to computerise the assembled data in a searchable database thus allowing for more detailed and specified research. Based on advanced bibliographical software (called LIDOS) and a thesaurus, specifically worked out to fit the contents, this new database became available to the public in 1990. However, at this stage, it was not possible for students and researchers to search the database themselves. Requests for bibliographies had to be directed to and answered by the database's staff. In order to provide wider access to the data collection in 1996 plans were made (in co-operation with the University's Regional Computing Centre) to transfer all records onto a new Internet-database, thus offering the opportunity for online-research.

The Internet-Database

In 1997, the year of the database's 10th anniversary, radical changes were made in the database's design and conception:

First of all, the complete data collection was made available on the WWW. The second major change concerned the database's presentation on the net. In an interdisciplinary collaboration with the Department of Design at the Fachhochschule Köln (Cologne Polytechnic) the database was given a new graphic design. The participants in the project also developed the final structure and outlook of the new web- pages, emphasizing transparency and user-friendliness. Finally, the database (hitherto simply called 'Women's and Gender Studies Database') received its present name.

The new name will require a short explanation for non-German speakers. The English word 'Inn' is used to imply hospitality, openness or, more generally, a place to meet. In addition, 'inn' is a German suffix which is often used to mark the female sex (when referring to professions). Thus: 'Lehrer' (male teacher) and 'Lehrerin' (female teacher), and the plural form 'Lehrerinnen' (female teachers). Feminist linguists have suggested a different practice: Rather than using the form 'inn' in order to append, as it were, the female to the male they have suggested the spelling 'LehrerInnen' (with capital 'I') as a generic term, denoting both the female and male sex. As yet, this form remains fairly rare in everyday German usage. It goes without saying, that gender Inn is keen to foster its wider use.


gender Inn seeks to provide a valuable research tool for women's and gender studies. Considering the enormous increase of publications in this area of research, the database has no delusions about being a complete and comprehensive mirror of the state of affairs in women's and gender studies. gender Inn sees its main advantage in the quality of its indexing, which aims at furnishing users with detailed information about the contents of the documents included. The Internet-database is designed to allow for simple word searches, as well as more advanced searches combining thesaurus keywords with Boolean operators. The publication of the complete thesaurus allows users to choose and use those keywords most appropriate to their research interests. Since the project regards itself as part of a larger effort to provide information on women's and gender studies on the web, gender Inn's web-site also contains selected further links to women's and gender studies databases, bibliographies and core reading lists.

Progress and Future Developments

gender Inn has been online since June 1997. As the Internet database slowly grows, so does the number of visitors and users. As yet, only German users can reap the full benefits of the database's services: While all information and help pages, including the search form, are available in German and English, the thesaurus is available only in its original German version. Still, English-speaking users can use the text search function of the database in order to retrieve full bibliographical records, even though the list of keywords printed with every record will be in German. Since the translation of the thesaurus (which contains some 2,000 keywords) into English has just been completed, it is to be hoped that it will soon be available online. Our ultimate goal is to provide each of the database's records (complete with keywords) in two separate versions: English and German.

Over the last months the number of visitors accessing the English version of the database has steadily increased. When, in March 1998, the database was featured as a selection in the Intenet Scout Report, which selects and introduces valuable Internet resources, the number of visitors of the English version for the first time exceeded the number of visitors on the German pages. In view of these developments we are optimistic, that, once the complete English version will be available, gender Inn will continue to grow and establish itself as a useful resource for research into women's and gender studies and an integral part of women's and gender studies on the World Wide Web.

Susanne Webel

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1998