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Evaluating and Managing Search and Retrieval

Hi Class, welcome to the week where we begin to discuss how to evaluate and manage search and retrieval.


This week we have one reading: Chapters 11 and 12 from our book by Cheryl Knott.

In addition to this lecture, I'll post a short demonstration video about how to apply some of what we've learned here.


As we wrap up Module 1, let's quickly review the main topics we've covered:

  • database terminology
  • multiple available databases and types of databases
    • paywalled databases
    • academic search complete (EBSCOhost)
    • ProQuest
    • free to use databases
    • Google Scholar, etc.
  • e-journal titles, searching
  • strategic information seeking
  • systematic browsing
  • browsing strategies
    • subject browsing
    • controlled vocabulary
    • author browsing
    • citation browsing
    • combination browsing
    • Boolean logic

In our final week for Module 1, we're going to quickly follow up on how to review how to evaluate and manage search results via individual databases. We'll go a littler further than what we did in an earlier forum, where we looked at creating lists in databases and such, and I'll refer to two databases as examples, but these tools are available on many databases. So, if you find that you use one of these databases a lot, like one of the databases that you've highlighted and have written about already, then create an account and take advantage of what they have or it has to offer.

Review data about each source

Let's say I'm interested in articles about the Lincoln and Douglas debates or about the Lincoln and Douglas style of debating, and I do a search for that term:

lincoln douglas debate

When I retrieve results, not all of the results will be relevant. To identify potential relevant results, without reading all of the original documents, which would be a waste of time, I can use the information on the results page to help decide what may be useful. Things I want to look at, as we've already discussed in previous weeks, include:

  • the title: titles often contain important information that signify what a paper or document is about, and so I want to read the title
  • page length: is the page length reported? Is it long? Is it too short?
  • recency: we have to be careful with recency. All research depends on the research before it. Some of today's research explicitly builds on previous work. In those cases, the previous research is useful, even if it's a bit outdated. But in other cases, research refutes previous research---shows that it was wrong. In those cases, we might just want to select the most recent.
  • the abstract: The abstract is designed to summarize information about an original source and is incredibly useful because it saves us time. There are different kinds of abstracts, but the most helpful are ones that not only tell us what a piece is about, but also tell us something about the methods, findings, and conclusions.
  • the descriptors/subject terms/thesauri: We've already reviewed these. Again, not only are they helpful in query formation, but they should also signal to us what a piece is about, and are thus useful in selecting works to save.

Create accounts to manage sources

Most major database platforms provide a way to create an account. This is super helpful if we want to use these platforms for managing search results. In the next module, we'll begin looking at other products that help us to this, products that are database neutral, but we may still want to use what the database platform has to offer for some tasks.

In this slide, I'm in EBSCOHost's Academic Search Complete. I've already created an account and have clicked on the Folder link/icon at the top right of the page. Here, on the left, you can see a list of the default folders.

Database folders

Let's go back to my search results. After reviewing the title, subject terms, abstract, and so forth for this first item in my results, I've decided that I want to save and read it later because I think it'll be useful for the paper I'm writing. To save it, I click on the folder icon just to the right of the title, and then click on the My Folder icon to save it there. You can see there there's a second item on this list that's titled Wikipedia articles. This is a folder that I've already created and where I've saved articles that are on that topic.

Add and review

And that's it. Once I've saved it to my folder, I visit that folder to see what I've saved, and then go back to my search results and continue adding and reviewing. If I create multiple folders, I can copy or move these bibliographic records to new ones. I keep iterating through this process until I've decided that I'm done.

Export citations

We'll cover this a bit more next week, but it's helpful to know that I can export the bibliographic information as citations. Here you have a list of some of the standard file formats. We'll come back to this next week, but I want you to see that it's there.

Review previous queries

Once I've iterated through the results based on my initial query, I can re-run new queries, perhaps based on some subject terms I've found, and then revisit my search history. I can review my search history, edit any queries there I've found, and merge them with other queries using Boolean logic.

Share results

There are a number of ways you can share the results of a search or of individual records. In EBSCOHost, if you click on the Share link, you'll have options to share all the results of the search, create an email alert, or create an RSS feed.

The permalink function, shown in this image, is meant to provide you with a URL that will always return these results. Depending on the database, if the database offers this, I've found that this can be hit or miss. That is, sometimes it doesn't work.

E-mail alerts are great. The system will save your search and re-run it periodically. Whenever new results are found that match your query, you'll receive an email about it. This is useful, especially, for projects that you know about in advance. E.g., say you know at the beginning of the semester that you'll have to write about lincoln douglas debates later on in the semester. If you set up the query at the beginning of the semester, a big part of your work will be done (that is, searching) by the time you have to begin reading and writing the paper. In short, let computers do as much of the work for you as possible. Save yourself some time.

Other databases

Lots of other databases offer these and similar functionalities. In an earlier forum, I showed how you can do similar things in ProQuest, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. That is, I showed how we can save search results and create create alerts for specific queries, just like EBSCOHost does.

If you have a big project, it might be useful to create alerts across a few databases. That way you'll have your bases covered.


In conclusion:

  • Review all article/source information when looking at search results
  • Manage search results within databases. Many databases help with this.
  • Next week we'll begin reviewing bibliographic reference software.

Stay tuned for an additional video to show some of this in action.

teaching/evaluating-and-managing-information.txt · Last modified: 2019/01/25 15:50 by seanburns