Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Database: SourceOECD Becomes OECD iLibrary

OECD, or the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development is a Paris-based group dedicated to "help its member countries to achieve sustainable economic growth and employment and to raise the standard of living in member countries while maintaining financial stability – all this in order to contribute to the development of the world economy." Although only 20 (developed) countries originally signed the Convention forming the OECD 1960, it has, in recent years, expanded both its scope and membership. OECD now "shares expertise and exchanges views with more than 100 other countries." And their membership is expanding. Chile became a member in May of 2010; Slovenia became a member in July; and Israel became a member in September of this year.

One of the group's strengths has always been its research and publishing. As they say of themselves: "For more than 40 years, OECD has been one of the world's largest and most reliable sources of comparable statistics and economic and social data. As well as collecting data, OECD monitors trends, analyses and forecasts of economic developments and researches social changes or evolving patterns in trade, environment, agriculture, technology, taxation and more."

Several years ago, we added the first version of their research database and ePublishing portal, SourceOECD. It was slow, awkward, but had a great deal of valuable data and information, not only about its wealthier member nations, but also about the developing world.

Now, SourceOECD has become the OECD iLibrary. It is now more user-friendly, with data that is easier to capture and manipulate. And the depth of resources and data are even greater than before. Content includes over 5,000 books covering anything from statistics to major policy topics. The specific Glossaries section contains a great many subject specific dictionaries, as well. You can also find over 2500 working papers, 300 datasets, and 5000 Excel tables in this database.

A few new publications are usually featured on the opening screen. And you can quickly jump to resources on a particular country, or to materials in major subject areas by opening the drop-down boxes mid-screen on the homepage. Note, too, the links in the top frame, which include the Statistics module. Here you can quickly get Tables from a mid-screen list or get to PDFs from OECD Factbook links to the right. To the left are links to actual data files that can be manipulated and/or exported to Excel. As with most databases, we do not have access to ALL materials here....but almost all! The one component you will not be able to access is the affiliated IEA (International Energy Agency) data sets. But the great wealth of OECD data and publications should be readily available to all CAS and SBS students and faculty through our link.

OECD material can be useful for everything from Economics to Business to Social Science research. Explore! And if you would like to see an overview two-sheet guide to the new platform, take a look at this PDF.

[FIND OECD iLibrary on the Business and Social Sciences pages of the "Database by Subject" lists.]

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Database: MasterFILE Premier

Although we encourage our students to use high-quality academic journal literature in most research situations, the fact is that sometimes the content of more popular news and consumer magazines is just what is needed. Perhaps you want to see how news magazines have covered our recent health insurance reform legislation (sometimes pejoratively labeled "Obamacare"). Or perhaps you are a Second Language student hoping to find a few basic readings to look at before tackling the more complex English of scholarly journal literature. Or maybe you want to see PDFs of Consumer Reports because the only other online source for that magazine, LexisNexis Academic, only has HTML, without the photos of the new car models.

For instances like these, we have added a database originally designed for public libraries called MasterFILE Premier. This database contains full text for nearly 1,700 periodicals covering news, general interest, business, health, education, general science and multicultural issues. It also contains full text more than 500 reference books, over 107,000 primary source documents, and an Image Collection of over 510,000 photos, maps & flags.

MasterFILE Premier offers PDF backfiles (as far back as 1975, in the case of Science News) for key publications including Foreign Affairs, History Today, The Nation, National Review, Saturday Evening Post, and many more.

Another feature is the Lexile Rankings, listed at the end of the citation. These are reading levels. Designed to help educators get an estimate of the reading difficulty of the particular article in the results list, it provides an approximate grade level reading ability required for comprehension. Therefore this might be useful for Second Language Learners. (As a reference point, 1100 to 1300 is considered Grade 11 & 12.) This first article that I pulled up in a search for healthcare reform and consumers--see screenshot--is at level 1660, so it should be appropriate for college students of all types.

However, let me emphasize that this database is no substitute for the use of scholarly journal databases, of which we have a great many, including Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, and Sage Journals Online. If a teacher says "academic only," then MasterFILE Premier is not a good option. But if you want some consumer magazines on the best brands of refrigerators or some quick news articles on a current topic, then MasterFILE Premier might do very well for you.

[FIND MasterFILE Premier on the General Resources page of the "Database by Subject" Lists, right below another good popular magazine database called General Reference Center Gold.]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Database Alert: Too Many Linking Icons!

Don't be alarmed if you do research in our EbscoHost databases and discover an overabundance of linking icons in your results list. See this screenshot for an example:
You can see that the "Custom Linking" option at Ebsco has gone a bit crazy. It is attempting to link an article from Consumer Reports to anything from BioOne (all peer-reviewed biology journal literature) to HeinOnline (an archival database of law-related materials). Clearly, Consumer Reports would not be at either location!

So, don't be distracted by this plethora of linking options. First, look to see whether the article is sitting right there in the database you are currently in. In this case, it was. (See the PDF link?)

If the article is not there, rather than click on all the custom link options in the hopes of finding it, look for the icon that looks likeThis will send you to our Serial Solutions link-resolver and that will check across all of our databases for that specific article, rather than throw a great many inappropriate individual database link options at you.

We have reported this issue to Ebsco and they tell us that it is a "known issue. The Custom linking is affected by an error somewhere involving Local Collections. We are aware of this, and are working [on] this with our highest priority. "

Hopefully, before long, the only Custom Links you will see in your EbscoHost results lists will be appropriate ones!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Database Alert: Gale Rebrands Several Databases

Gale has decided that a snazzier interface was worth going for with several of their "Resource Center" databases, all of which we have access to through regional and state contracts. The new databases are Biography in Context (formerly Biography Resource Center), Opposing Viewpoints in Context (formerly Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center), U.S. History in Context (formerly History Resource Center: U.S.), World History in Context (formerly History Resource Center: World) and Science in Context (formerly Science Resource Center).

If we look at the homepage of, say, Opposing Viewpoints in Context, we see a very busy opening screen with links to featured videos, featured news, categories of hot button social topics and the like. Feel free to browse and explore. However, if you are trying to get at a particular topic, you might want to open the link to "Issues" in the black frame to a see a lengthy browsable alphabetical list of topics, or, better yet, simply put in a keyword search in the search box in the upper right.

Note that the types of materials are also listed above the search box. (And I find some of the secondary ones, tucked away in a drop-down called "More," actually more useful because they include the categories of "Academic Journals,' "Primary Sources" and "Statistics.") In any case, if you click one of these, the database will search specifically for this type of material at the same time it looks for your keyword. So, I can search everything for a single keyword like immigration or a keyword combination like children and internet, or I can search specifically within source type like "Viewpoints" or "Reference" by clicking the word above. And when you do a search, pay attention to the subjects listed to left. These will allow you to limit the results by major subject heading.

Whatever you call it, Opposing Viewpoints in Context, like our CQ Researcher, is an excellent database to use any time you are looking for both sides of any social issue that is currently a matter of public debate.

Another useful database that made the design switch is Biography in Context. It works in a similar way. Simply search for your person--anyone from literary authors to pop stars--in the upper-right search box, and then explore the resulting materials, displayed in categories. Note, although some popular figures will open with an extensive introductory write-up. Others will present simply as search results, as in my search for Aung San Suu Kyi below. I can look through the first few Reference book entries in the results list or further limit to types of materials (e.g., Magazines) from the list in the left frame.

For quick information on a famous person, Biography in Context is definitely a go-to database.

The others listed in the first paragraph are fine, but since they are more oriented towards high-school learners and public library clients, you would not want to do ALL of your research in U.S. History in Context , World History in Context, or Science in Context . They are good for introductory information, but they contain relatively little of the kind of high-quality scholarly journal literature that you might find in a JSTOR or BioOne.

Want to learn a bit more about why Gale thinks these new database platforms are an improvement? Here is a page on the interface. (More information is available in the links to the left.) And here is a video introduction to the "in Context" suite.