More tips from MES

Mary Ellen Bates had more super-searcher tools and tips for attendees at Internet Librarian 2014. @mebs #internetlibrarian Good reminder that changing position of search terms does make a difference – to which I will add, it can even make a difference in getting a Knowledge nugget. There are several hacking-type of tips using advanced search operators – good to know. And a message for users of Android and iOS devices – look into Google Now – it can anticipate your needs, as Bates shows.

Identifying entities for your search

Daniel Russell, Google’s search guru, challenged readers of Search Research to find the places mentioned by Mark Twain in “Around the Equator” (Sept 3). It isn’t simple, as we see in Russell’s Answer (Part 1) to: Can you find the places Twain mentions in “Around the Equator”?. His approach is to identify the entities (in this case the place names) in the text. Thus the first step is to find an application that will analyze the text of Twain’s work.

(Note: I couldn’t find a Part 2 to the answer.)

Subject Operator in Google Books

Dan Russell describes use of the subject operator in Google Books in his October search challenge (Oct 1). Google Books includes subject headings from Library of Congress or BISAC subject headings from .the Book Industry Studyy Group.  He doesn’t say how or how well items in Google Books are indexed with Library of Congress subject headings or BISAC subject headings. However, the technique does provide context for your query, and will usually yield better results.

He expands on this in the sequel, Answer. You Make Up the Challenge (Oct 3), demonstrating with examples its value in a topical search, and as a browsing tool.

Information Retrieval Techniques

It takes experience and discipline to be skilled researcher. Judith Tinnes, in this article on the art of searching for terrorism literature, presents a very thorough and clear description of the research process and types of online resource and provides sound advice on how to track down the best material. It is the best article I have ever read on information retrieval techniques: It instructs the reader in matters of approach and tools, and includes detail on techniques such as those of snowballing, citation searching, and citation analyses. You don’t need to be researching terrorism literature to benefit from this, but the topic does give it an extra frisson.


The Art of Searching: How to Find Terrorism Literature in the Digital Age
by Judith Tinnes, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol 7, No 4 (2013)

This guide provides an overview of information retrieval techniques for locating high-quality literature on terrorism and counter-terrorism. Starting from general considerations on conducting a literature search – taking into account the specifics of terrorism studies – instructions are provided on how to find particular literature types by using different search methods and information retrieval systems, followed by information on how to refine a search by employing focused search strategies. The explanations are enriched with numerous links to recommendable resources. The included examples are focused on terrorism studies, but the general search mechanics can be applied to other research domains as well.

Reference Works Online

Reference sources have been moving to online for several years. This article in Online Searcher takes a good hard look at the pros and cons of online reference products. Ease of access has  greatly improved, but authority may not be clear and the online version of a reference work may not be complete.

The Ebb and Flow of Reference Products , By Denise Beaubien Bennett, Online Searcher (July / August 2014)

“Have reference sources eroded in quality in the online era? We’re all aware of the challenges facing us and our users in vetting (or not) the authority and credibility of free sources available online. But the quality of contemporary vetted sources is worth examining in its own right.”

Many excellent online reference works are commented upon in this article.

Whether to use the Boolean OR

Aaron Tay in this blog post takes on the thorny topic of whether using the Boolean OR in a search query is really worthwhile even at proprietary databases such as Web of Science of EbscoHost. He is so daring as to write, “that I believe increasingly such a search pattern of stringing together synonyms of concepts generally does not improve the search results and can even hurt them. ”

Why Nested Boolean search statements may not work as well as they did, by Aaron Tay, Musings About Librarianship (Jul 14)

I have been teaching very selective use of OR in web searching. Mostly it’s not needed and when used can muddy the results. But it is still beneficial for the searcher to analyze the question to identify concepts and know when to expand a concept. We no longer need to expand for spelling variations and less so on synoymns EXCEPT when we want to control the word use.

Article seems to give balanced account of need to use OR in some databases (such as PubMed), and the much looser approach with the Web.

Toxnet online course

Health sciences librarians and health or environmental sciences professionals in the United States will be interested in this new online course – Discovering Toxnet – by the US National Library of Medicine (Oct 20 to Nov 14, 2014). Note: Open only to residents of the United States.

“TOXNET is a web-based system of databases covering hazardous chemicals, environmental health, toxic releases, chemical nomenclature, poisoning, risk assessment and regulations, and occupational safety and health. The independent modules cover TOXLINE, ChemIDplus, TRI, TOXMAP, Hazardous Substances Data Bank, IRIS, Has-Map, LactMed, WISER, CHEMM, REMM, LiverTox and more. You’ll learn about the resources through videos, guided tutorials, and discovery exercises”