Searching like the real pros

While I learn many of my search tips from my colleagues at conferences like Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian, I have found another way to tap into the expertise of search pros. Factiva is particularly good for finding specially-constructed, complex search queries that their internal search experts have designed for difficult or complex concepts. If I am having trouble getting the results I expect when searching a value-added online service, I pop the hood and see how the real search geeks would approach the topic.

On Factiva, at the search screen, click the link to Factiva Expert Search and you will get a hierarchical menu of complex pre-built search strategies for topics ranging from investor sentiment to counterfeit drugs. Click the little “i” next to the search topic and you will see the entire search strategy… and it’s not just a couple of industry codes. The search query for the Factiva Expert Search on climate change, for example, is hlp=(climate change or global warming) and ((atleast3 climate change or atleast3 global warming) or (greenhouse near5 (gas or gases) and greenhouse near5 (effect$2 or affect*))) and rst=tmnb and wc>600 and la=en Whew! But just looking at this search serves as a good reminder of the search tools available in Factiva – limiting the search to headline or lead paragraph, using the atleastn and nearn operators, truncating with various options and using the word-count operator to eliminate brief stories. (Note that you can also use Factiva’s Query Genius button, available in the upper right corner, to help spot errors when building a complex query.)

Nexis offers something similar; in the News search page, click the Add Index Terms link, then the Advanced Index Term Look-up link. In the resulting pop-up box, you can search the company, industry and subject indexes to find any terms related to a topic. For example, a search for terms containing the word biofuel turned up nine companies, five industries and three subject terms, most of which did not have the word biofuel within the term title but all of which pertained to the concept of biofuels, such as Alternative Fuel Programs  and Energy Research. These serve as a useful reminder of parallel or similar concepts that could be included for a more comprehensive search.

While neither Factiva nor Nexis has pre-constructed searches for every topic, they can be useful starting points for ideas on new approaches.

Leave a Reply