Dealing with null results

Love this line from Greg Notess’ article Tips for Avoiding, or Celebrating, Zero Search Results in Information Today — “Only librarians like to search; everyone else likes to find”.

Notess examines the reasons for and the significance of a null set of results. Mostly, searchers need to know the structure and scope of the database; literary and academic databases are much different than Google; specialty searches such as for patents take special skills.

Digital Archiving

Digital archiving has reached an urgency as more records begin in digital format, and older ones are digitized. Jan Zastrow in Information Today introduces Top 10 Digital Archives Blogs (July 5)  There is much for the archivist or records manager to investigate here and some for the individual interested in personal archives and genealogy..

Here’s a list of bests to help you sift through the noise—online journals, blogs, and RSS and Twitter feeds—to keep you abreast of what’s happening in the quickly evolving world of digital archives, electronic records, digital preservation and curation, personal archiving, digital humanities, and more. Some are sponsored by august institutions, while others are more informal, idiosyncratic offerings from thought leaders in the industry. A caveat: These are all U.S.-centric, English-language sources, which do not span the universe of ideas about digital cultural heritage globally (for that, get started at the World Digital Library;


It’s not often that we come across an article that compares Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar, and Microsoft Academic for citation analysis. Google Scholar Digest posted this study by Anne-Wil Harzing of Middlesex University, UK (June 13, 2016) Microsoft Academic versus Google Scholar, Scopus, and Web of Science: Anne-Wil Harzing’s case.

This article assesses Microsoft Academic coverage through a detailed comparison of the publication and citation record of a single academic for each the four main citation databases: Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, the Web of Science, and Scopus. Overall, this first small-scale case study suggests that the new incarnation of Microsoft Academic presents us with an excellent alternative for citation analysis. If our findings can be confirmed by larger-scale studies, Microsoft Academic might well turn out to combine the advantages of broader coverage, as displayed by Google Scholar, with the advantage of a more structured approach to data presentation, typical of Scopus and the Web of Science. If so, the new Microsoft Academic service would truly be a Phoenix arisen from the ashes.

Spoiler alert: Microsoft Academic was found to be stronger than Web of Science for publication and citation coverage, and at least equal to Scopus. “Only Google Scholar outperforms Microsoft Academic interms of both publications and citations.”

Jurn for academic research

When searching for academic materials consider a search engine developed by David Haden in the UK. It is powered by Google Custom Search of freely available academic articles and theses in the disciplines of Arts, Humanities, Business, Law, Nature, Science, and Medical.

“Established in 2009 to comprehensively cover the arts and humanities, in 2014 JURN expanded in scope. JURN now also covers selected university fulltext repositories and many additional ejournals in science, biomedical, business and law. In 2015/6 JURN expanded again, adding over 600 ejournals on aspects of the natural world.”

The site has good instructions on syntax and strategies to use. Sources have been classified so that you can browse topics to identify the classification of 3000 of the 4000 e-journals.

The curator also provides a guide to academic search that contains excellent advice and examples.

Jurn was recently recommended in the May 2016 edition of The BestBizWeb Enewsletter.

“… one of the features that makes JURN special is that it also incorporates curation, so the materials in the database are carefully selected to include the most substantive and relevant free academic and scholarly resources. “

Subscribe to BestBizWeb to benefit from its selections every month.

Google Scholar – journals and citations

Google, to my amazement, produces Google Scholar Metrics (GSM) for authors to use to ” gauge the visibility and influence of recent articles in scholarly publications” (From FAQ). It shows for a journal its five-year h-index and h-median metrics. These are measure of journal impact. The h-index ” reflects both the number of publications and the number of citations per publication” (Wikipedia). Searchers may use these lists to identify journals that Google Scholar has indexed, the articles and number of times cited. Current data is for 2015.

But GSM shows only a small portion of the journals. Enter Journal Scholar Metrics from EC3 Research Group: Evaluación de la Ciencia y la Comunicación Científica. Universidad de Granada. It displays data for Social Sciences and Humanities (SS&H) journals included in Google Scholar Metrics (GSM). Journals are classified by subject and country. For Canada, as an example, there are 210 jounrals listed showing the h-index and with links to Google Scholar content.

Decline of e-pubs on scholarly resources

There are fewer and fewer e-publications with updates on scholarly resources and grey literature. The team at DocuTicker says FarewellDocubase closed Februrary 2016. The “team” continues to run the for-fee subscription based jinfo – formerly Freepint (which stopped being free several years ago). It carries reviews of information products and other articles of interest to information professionals.

For receiving updates on an eclectic range of sources and materials, Gary Price (who had founded both DocuTicker and ResourceShelf in the early 2000s) and Shirl Kennedy are still doing excellent news roundups at infodocket, at the Library Journal. They describe the service as offering “…information industry news, useful websites, search tips and tools…and occasional commentary.” Follow the blog or pick up the Twitter feed.

The sister site FullTextReports that is mentioned as providing “new and free full text reports from think tanks, governments around the world, research institutes, academia” as of 2015 is no longer being updated. StatFountain for statistically-focused reports is also in pause mode as of October 2015.

It’s regrettable that these marvellous services for scholarly researchers and information professionals have fallen on bad times, but free as a business model doesn’t pay the bills.

Semantic Web – publishing revolution

Semantic web suggests that a web search engine can “understand”  content enough to match that to an understanding of searcher needs.  Today, the concepts or technologies of the semantic web are being applied in the development of databases and huge knowledge vaults..

What’s New With the Semantic Web by Donald Hawkins (Information Today, March) notes points from a keynote address by Matt Turner (CTO for media and entertainment at MarkLogic).

The startling paragraph indicates that semantic linkages will change publishing and information delivery:

“We have moved from publishing form-based prod ucts to a dedicated infrastructure in which products are created from databases of information. The semantic web plays a major role in such activities. Semantics are a good way to organize disparate data, so we must think about a new class of information. Data helps us understand customers, authors, and specialized subject areas. The use of semantic data is one of the biggest changes in our industry.”

Several major digitizing projects and their data models are mentioned.