4.1189 E-Research (2/91)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 29 Mar 91 16:53:51 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1189. Friday, 29 Mar 1991.

(1) Date: Thu, 28 Mar 91 9:38:48 cst (47 lines)
From: "Stuhr-Rommereim,Rebecca" <STUHRROR@GRIN1.Bitnet>
Subject: Habits of electronic Searching/Response to Eric Rabkin

(2) Date: Thu, 28 Mar 91 19:27:24 EST (44 lines)
From: MICHAELM@PORTLAND (Mike McDermott)
Subject: Effect of E-sources on research

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 91 9:38:48 cst
From: "Stuhr-Rommereim,Rebecca" <STUHRROR@GRIN1.Bitnet>
Subject: Habits of electronic Searching/Response to Eric Rabkin

Electronic databases have an incredible effect on habits of research.
Speaking specifically of databases intended for end user searching
(rather than having the librarian be the intermediary), there is no
comparison to the amount of use a printed index might get and the amount
of use an electronic index might get. Students who might never take the
time to sit down and go through volumes of a newspaper index, will take
a great deal of time to learn to use and then use extensively an
electronic index. Journals, newspapers that may have received very
little use before the library obtained their electronic index, become
high demand items afterwards. I don't see the same dramatic change in
the use of books after the introduction of an automated catalog. I
think that this is because students don't use the aspects of the catalog
that make it different than the card catalog. They stick with the
author, title and subject (still not knowing what the subject headings
are) and don't take advantage of the call number or shelf browsing,
jumping to related subject headings, limiting, and most importantly
keyword searching (when it includes titles AND subject headings). We,
at Grinnell College libraries, have been slow in getting into end user
searching via CD-ROM indexes or tapes loaded into our online catalog
(very, very expensive) because we provide free database searching to all
students, faculty and staff. However, after hearing a talk given by the
director of the University of Iowa Libraries, we were convinced that we
should change our thinking. We had been put off by the cost of most
electronic databases and felt that our searching of databases for patrons
would be more cost effective. Considering the increase of access against
the increased cost, we felt that we had to move in the direction of
end-user searching. Well, we haven't managed to get into it in a big way
yet because of costs, but we are still working on it. But in a rambling
way, to answer E. Rabkin's question, electronic databases have a huge
effect on student research. Even if they are not doing their own
searching, if they are aware of the possibility of a database search that
can be done for them (and if it is free) the possibilities of their
research are hugely expanded. Electronic databases coordinated with
(smaller colleges having smaller libraries) or the size of the college a
Not to be construed as an argument for smaller acquisition funds.
Materials in the library are much more readily accessible than materials
through interlibrary loan.

Rebecca Stuhr-Rommereim
Deputy Reader Services Librarian/Humanities Bibliographer
Grinnell College Libraries

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------47----
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 91 19:27:24 EST
From: MICHAELM@PORTLAND (Mike McDermott)
Subject: Effect of E-sources on research

Responding to Eric Rabkin's question on the effects of electronic
sources on student research: I work with these students every
day and have a few observations to toss out.

On the positive side:

1) Electronic resources (especially catalogs and indexes) make
it possible for students to identify a large number of
sources quickly and (thanks to printers) correctly, leaving
them with more time and motivation for actually gathering
the materials.
2) The ease with which most electronic sources are able to jump
between related topics makes it more likely that students
will follow up on these leads and end up with a more
complete search.
3) Boolean operations and limiting functions make the process
of defining and focusing a research topic more explicit and
more of a conscious act to the student.

On the negative:

1) The initial ease with which students can begin to get
information out of an electronic source can sometimes be
misleading and prevent them from realizing that there are
more advanced, efficient search methods available to them
than simply scrolling through every entry in the ERIC
database with 'psychology' in the title.
2) I've frequently seen students shun a paper index appropriate
to their topic in favor of a less appropriate, but
electronic, index.
3) The "Information Overload" effect: Students will suddenly
find themselves deluged by possible sources on their topic.
Such a situation requires powers of citation evaluation and
discrimination that many students don't seem to have.

I look forward to hearing what others will have to say on the
Mike McDermott
Reference Librarian
Univ. of Southern Maine