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Science Citation Index Compact
Electronic Resources reviewd by Kate Kaufman
Although electronic databases appear to have arrived on the scene with lightning speed, "common-sense" retrieval of "what you want when you want it" isn't quite as state-of-the-art as we might like. How do you use these tools to make life easier in the chase for a story?
We've chosen the Institute for Scientific Information (LSI) databases for exploration and review in this introductory edition of SOURCES SELECT RESOURCES because ISI is the "granddaddy" of the information management and retrieval world.
Providing "current awareness services" has been the mainstay of ISI for 32 years. Integrating advanced electronic technologies with past standards and traditions enables delivery of data in print, microcomputer diskette, compact disc, magnetic tape and online formats.
A worldwide arrangement with journal publishers means ISI has the "most current information available". The deal is: ISI gets rights from publishers for access to the tables of contents of their journals at the time of publication (three months prior to any other information service). The result: weekly published Current Contents in seven editions covering a wide range of disciplines. This has evolved into a massive multidisciplinary database with almost 40 million source records.
The comprehensiveness of the database is astonishing. ISI indexes the literature from all the disciplines of the sciences, the social sciences, the arts and humanities, and computer science and mathematics.
Information on a topic of choice brings up relevant material from journals in disciplines from within and outside the selected field. You'll receive full bibliographic data on every article, meeting abstract, editorial, review, letter, short story, work of art, etc. that you access ... including article citations that cannot be retrieved from more specialized databases.
Special retrieval features of all ISI citation indexes are: cited reference searching (ISI captures the bibliography of each article indexed in its database), related records (articles that have one or more bibliographic references in common), abstracts, and 'keywords plus" whereby additional search terms are taken directly from an article's bibliography. For anyone working in the media or doing investigative work, another bonus is that the first author's address is available on command-by a simple keystroke.
Now, about the value of a massive reservoir of citations. Ever been overwhelmed by the complexity of a particular story lead? Cited reference searches allow you to uncover essential information that cannot be retrieved through traditional search techniques. You can search forward in time-take a known, relevant paper and uncover later papers that cite it.
Another strategy is to do a keyword search. Input a keyword such as "embryology". Doing so, for instance, on the Science Citation Index CD Edition (SCI CDE) provides access to authors and information on everything from vaccines for birth control to British government regulations on reproductive technology-in minutes. The hardest part about using this technology is staying in focus. If you're naturally curious there are a myriad directions a search can go.
SCI CDE is a veritable treasure, providing instant electronic access to full bibliographic data and cited references on items contained in more than 3,200 of the world's leading scientific and technical journals across 100 disciplines.
Anyone covering science, technology, medicine, health care (a handful of the 100 disciplines in this database) can have a field day discovering the latest developments in a given area. It's a way of opening doors to historical information and a rich source of contacts to interview.
All major university libraries possess ISI's products and my experience is that within minutes a helpful librarian will show you how to get your search going. Another option if you're equipped with a modem is online service, available through three major vendors: DIALOG, DATA-STAR and DIMDI.
Published in Sources, Summer 1993