Monday, February 20, 2012

Notable E-Book: SAGE Handbook of Public Opinion Research

You probably know that Suffolk has its own major public opinion research center. Founded in 2002, the Suffolk University Political Research Center (SUPRC) has become a national leader in political polling. (Click the left sidebar on the linked page above for recent examples of their polls in this VERY political year!)

But did you know that we also have several good electronic sources for other public opinion research? These include the extensive Roper Center for Public Opinion Research (aka iPOLL Databank) and another extensive collection of surveys from a variety of sources calling Polling the Nations (remember to logoff from the latter as it has only one simultaneous user).

We also have a variety of books on the subject. And a recent infusion of new ebooks into our Sage eReference database includes another useful resource entitled the SAGE Handbook of Public Opinion Research.

The publisher claims that "this major new Handbook is the first to bring together into one volume the whole field of public opinion theory, research methodology, and the political and social embeddedness of polls in modern societies. It comprehensively maps out the state-of-the-art in contemporary scholarship on these topics." While the editors indicate that "as a handbook, [this book] should give the reader an overview of the most important concepts included in and surrounding the term public opinion and its application in modern social research. We have assembled a set of authors who are active researchers and experts in the fields on which they were asked to write a contribution."

A major section on "Methodology" covers the design of surveys from telephone or face-to-face to panels and focus groups. Other sections address the legal and ethical issues of survey research and the use of polling as a media and propaganda/political tool. The book's final section deals with specific applications in marketing and voter research and the like.

The landing page for the eBook allows you to quickly search a keyword concept across the entire volume. You can also browse a Table of Contents or an A-Z index with a "search as you type" box attached.

Besides this handbook, there are plenty of other titles related to a wide variety of topics and research methods in all the social sciences within the Sage eReference database. They're all worth exploring for quick background, basic information and topic overviews, so don't stop with this title!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Database: ABI/INFORM Complete

The Library's budget is very tight these days. (We're sure YOU know the feeling!) We can't afford to add new databases from extra money in our database budget line currently--because there is no extra money. What we can sometimes do is reconfigure our offerings from a particular vendor to maximize the research potential for our users. This is what we did in order to add ABI/INFORM Complete as a "new" library database for business and economics research.

ABI/INFORM has been around for over 35 years and it used to be our main business database. But then it was eclipsed by Business Source Complete (BSC) from EBSCO, and we actually switched databases over ten years ago. After losing much of its most useful content, ProQuest started rebuilding its database a few years back. And now, the "Complete" version truly is an impressive product, in terms of content.

Among the key titles included in ABI/INFORM Complete are The Wall Street Journal (exclusive--and also available through a separate link), selected ProQuest Dissertations and Theses in business and economics, SSRN Working Papers, as well as key offerings from reputable providers such as Business Monitor International, Economist Intelligence Unit, Oxford Analytica, and Oxford Economic Forecasting. A few exclusive periodical titles--like MIT Sloan Management Review--also make this an attractive product.

So, by combining a few things like our WSJ file and our Hoover's access into the deal, we were able to add this large research file, which indexes 6,800 journals, nearly 80% of which are in full-text.

The issue with ABI is not the amount of information that is available here, but how easy it is to get at the best materials. You will be almost buried in "hits" if you do a simple search. (A boolean keyword search for nike and marketing retrieves over 30,000 records!) The problem is that the results are often unwieldy and don't seem well-targeted using the ProQuest's current search algorithms.

Here are a couple of tips for getting something useful. First, on the landing page, which is an Advanced Search page, put in multiple terms in the AND boxes--this should look for multiple concepts in the same record. Also consider using some of the "Search Options" limits on the lower half of that opening search page.

If you end up with too many (inappropriate) hits on your initial results page, consider changing your sort to one by Relevance instead of date, as highlighted in yellow in the below screenshot. If you are searching for something that is a phrase, consider putting the phrase in quotation marks (as in "social media") so the database doesn't simply search for both words anywhere in a record. Consider changing the search scope from "All fields + text" to "All fields (no full text)." And it might also be worth exploring some the database-suggested subject searches you'll find above your results list. (Just be aware that these often knock out more items than you might wish!)

Another good option is to click the "More Options" link under "Source Types" in the right column. This allows you to include and exclude only certain types of materials. For example, in the below screenshot, I tell the database to give me only materials that are from trade journals, magazines and reports, as I do not want secondary materials like wire feeds or overly academic materials like scholarly journals and dissertations.

You will change these preferences, according to your particular research needs at that moment.

And are you primarily interested in finding some impressive statistics for your presentation? Then change the search from Advanced to Data & Reports by clicking the link under the main database name (as below).

You can search by keyword terms and also plug in extra limits by looking up the right company term, location, or other search option.

For more information on the database, you might want to look at this general brochure. Here, too, is a search guide from the company. But unfortunately, since it is dated from 2007, it is not accurate to the current ProQuest interface. To see how things are different (and not necessarily improved!) see this Search Syntax Conversion Guide. And for some more up-to-date tips, see this company LibGuide.

There's plenty to find here, so delve into this new database when you are doing business or economics research!

[Find ABI/INFORM Complete on our A-Z database list, or in our Subject Database List for Business & Management.]