What Am I Searching (And Do I Care?)

This post was written by Darcy Katzman on March 10, 2016
Posted Under: Federated Search

Indexed discovery services are a lot like Google: you can search simply and get results quickly, but the sources you are rocky-trailsearching tend to be mysterious. Do you know if you are searching specialized sources or generic sources? Authoritative or with an agenda? When a researcher pushes the search button, they get whatever results are deemed relevant from whatever sources are included, and they can’t limit their search to only the sources that matter to them.

For some researchers, knowing the sources behind the search really makes no difference to them at all. To these researchers, often undergraduates, it’s the results that count. Most results nowadays do show the source, publication or journal that result is from. This makes it somewhat easier to eyeball a page of results, disregard those from irrelevant sources, or select results as appropriate if they are from an authoritative source. But that research methodology seems inefficient to say the least.

Serious researchers, on the other hand, want to know what they are searching. If they know that their information will most likely be in three or four specific resources out of the 20 or 30 their organization subscribes to, then why should they wade through a massive results list or spend one iota of extra time filtering out the extra sources to view their nuggets of information? (Quick answer, they shouldn’t.)

To begin to combat this resource transparency problem, libraries are creating separate web pages of source lists and descriptions for serious researchers. Who is the provider? What is the resource and what information exactly does the resource provide? These pages also include the categories of sources searched such as ebooks, articles, multimedia collections, etc. While these lists of resources are certainly helpful to document, is it fair to ask researchers to reference a separate web page to understand what digital content is included in their search, particularly when they are urgently trying to find something from a particular source of information? Or should we ask researchers to disregard knowing what sources they are searching and to just pay attention to the results?  Neither of these seems appropriate in this day and age.

Most of us know the benefits of a single search of all resources. One search improves the efficiency of searching disparate sources, makes comparing and contrasting results faster, and provides an opportunity to save, export or email selected results. However, Explorit Everywhere! goes one step further by lending transparency of sources to researchers so they can search even faster. One of our customers mentioned that they moved from a well known discovery service because they were frustrated with all of the news results that were returned. It didn’t help that their researchers couldn’t select specific sources to search, particularly when their searches always seemed to bring back less than relevant results.

Explorit Everywhere! helps to narrow a search up front with not only the standard Advanced Search fields, but a list of sources to pick and choose from. A researcher looking to search in four different sources doesn’t want to run a search against 25 sources. They can narrow the playing field to hone in on the needle in the haystack faster. And from the results page, they can limit to each individual source to view only those results, in the order that the source ranked them.  A serious researcher’s dream? That’s what we’ve heard

Not all researcher’s care about drilling down into individual sources like this. But in Explorit Everywhere! the option is there to search the broad or narrow path. We even filter out the rocks.

In a future blog article we’ll talk about the other side of this question: What content am I missing?

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