Monday, 26 October 2015

Searching for a Pan-Database Database

I tend to start searching for research materials using GoogleScholar: because it is easy.

Using some Boolean search tools: +, "-", and -, used without spaces helps to narrow search. Plus to say "I want all these things" (Google+Scholar), double quote marks to say "I want it to say EXACTLY this" ("Google Scholar"), and minus to say "I don't want this item" (-GoogleScholar).

When that is used in conjunction with the Harzing journal ranker, you can focus on materials from the top journals in your field.

My institute's library has a few databases - largely ProQuest - but it is a very fragmented search environment. Perhaps "Stumble Upon" might truly be a better term.

Who would think that in the age of Google and the interweb that the searchability of periodicals and journals would be confined to individual, paid access databases, depending on who owns the publishing house? You cannot, unless a paid-up member, even see the database indexes for some publishers.

And that is where Google comes in. Google can see the indexes, and a Boolean search using GoogleScholar, then Google, will usually turn up the article you want. You may not yet have access to it, but at least you will now know what it is that you want to get access to.

In my view, academic journal search has not caught up with technology. Search should not be as arcane as dipping into closed database after closed database. This mimics the old index file drawers in paper libraries.

I am lucky enough to have access to the Ministry of Education library here in New Zealand, and they have a tool called "OneSearch" which searches all materials that they have access to. It saves so much time, and then the accuracy of search itself is up to me understanding the terminology of the field, not in knowing how to find the databases themselves.

We badly need a global pan-database database. Maybe that might form a future Google project.


Sam

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