Monday, June 30, 2008

Thougts on EBSCO 2.0

I really like the look and feel of EBSCO 2.0. Here is a brief run down of the new features you will find in EBSCO 2.0.

REMEMBER: EBSCO 2.0 will go live sometime in July!

Please note: I have only been testing CINAHL in EBSCO 2.0. My original test search was Caffeine and Arrhythmia. I did a few different methods of searching. I searched using subject headings, text words, and the combining terms using the search history.

Search Results: They are displayed in the middle of the screen. Quick methods to narrow the results further are display in two frames on either side of the middle screen. The nice thing is that these side screens can be collapsed providing more screen space to view the results in the main center screen. On the left hand frame, users have the option to limit their results by Source Type, Subject, Subject Major Heading, Age, Gender, and Publication Type. I am a little confused as to the difference between Publication Type (which only has book chapter) and Source Type (which has Periodicals, Book/Monographs, and CEUs). Why have both, why aren't they all under one "type," either Source Type or Publication Type?

You can click on the small arrow on the frame border to collapse or expand (once collapsed) the frame. In order to see how the left hand frame performed I just searched for Arrhythmias as a subject term. I then narrowed my search down using only the options provided on the left hand frame. I was able to easily narrow it further to Females, 65+, and Heart Failure, Congestive. EBSCO 2.0 provides a link to more subject headings from the left frame. For example, Heart Failure Congestive was not listed as a subject on the left hand frame but I just clicked More and EBSCO 2.0 provided me with a list of a few more possible subject terms. Just like in the older version of EBSCO, if users have narrowed themselves too far by using the left hand frame, they can click on the breadcrumb links up at the top of the results to broaden the search again. However, in 2.0 users can now remove items from the breadcrumb trail by clicking on the "x" and if they want, users can start a whole new search using any of the terms listed in the breadcrumbs.

In the 2.0 version the right hand frame allows people to limit results to full text and references available. It is also the area where items in the save folder are displayed. I think this is a nice feature that allows you to see at a glance the titles of articles you have saved. But if it is distracting or takes up too much screen space, users can click on the frame arrow and collapse it. Searchers can click on the Search Options link to see the entire limiting options within CINAHL. The main search screen grays out and the limit screen is super imposed on top allowing the searcher to quickly select the desired limits.

Searching Itself: From what I can tell not much has changed between 2.0 and regular EBSCO. I am not a big fan of EBSCO's search interface. I think the confusion and problems come when users try and search using the Subject Terms. We have the default checked to automatically suggest subject terms because we think using subject terms in the medical databases (such as CINAHL) is a better way to start off searching. When searchers type in a term like arrhythmia it maps to suggested subject headings. Here is where it gets confusing. The searcher selects the term then must look up at the top and click Search Database. It is extremely easy to accidentally click Browse, I have done it myself quite a few times. Clicking Browse just retrieves and displays the same set of subject headings. To librarians we usually know we clicked the wrong button, to regular users it appears they just caught in a loop.

Search History: If a user has multiple searches and wants to combine them together, they will want to click on the Search History link which located just above the search results (similar location to where the Search History tab is in regular EBSCO). This is another area that still could use some improvement and can be confusing to users. EBSCO keeps the current search in the search box and it is still present in the box when users click on Search History. The user must delete the search strategy left in the search box when they are checking searches they wish to combine. If they don't, the checked boxes are combined with the left over search strategy causing some confusing results.

Viewing Search Results within Search History: In regular EBSCO when users clicked on view search results it exited the Search History area and displayed the results. In EBSCO 2.0 it stays within the Search History and displays the results below the Search History. This can be confusing because unless users pay attention they might just think they are caught in a loop constantly viewing the Search History. It is not immediately obvious that they must scroll down to view the results.

Viewing Search Results in general: The citation display in 2.0 seems to be a little easier to read and has a slightly cleaner look than regular EBSCO. I think this because citation's title is displayed on one line while the rest of the citation information is displayed below. It also appears that the title is in a slightly larger font than the rest of the citation. For the most part I never had any problems with regular EBSCO's citation display, but this seems to be nice subtle improvement.

My absolute favorite feature improvement is the ability to hover over the magnifying glass to see the abstract while still viewing the list of citation results. No more clicking the title to see the abstract then clicking again to get back to the results list. Simply hover over the magnifying glass next to each citation and a bubble pops up with the abstract, then if the searcher is interested in the full text they can click on the buttons within the bubble to add it to the folder or view the PDF.

Easier Bookmarking: In regular EBSCO searchers could see the persistent URL at the bottom of the citation but now EBSCO 2.0 makes it easier bookmark citations by providing direct linking to a whole slew of bookmarking services such as del.ici.ous, furl, digg, etc. Articles, searches and publications can all be bookmarked.

Other features: The following features are not yet available in CINAHL and MEDLINE or are not as noticeable.

Image Quick View (IQV) - The thumbnail of the image(s) in articles can be found below the citation on the results list. These images can be pictures, illustrations, charts, and graphs. However, this option is only available with EBSCOhost journals with native PDF. All other full text journal articles with images will not have not IQV. While this is a nice way to handle images, I found that there just weren't a lot of results within CINAHL that included the IQV.

Date Slider: The date slider is not yet available for MEDLINE or CINAHL. When it is available it will be located in the frame on the right hand side. I tried using it in Academic Search Premier, it was ok, but I found it a lot easier just to type in the limiting dates beneath slider bar rather than sliding it to the desired range.

SmartText: SmartText searching is not yet available for MEDLINE or CINAHL. It allows the searcher to search any text from any article or document. Users paste a sentence, phrase, paragraph, or entire pages into the search box and will retrieve a relevant result list. I am not sure how much medical librarians will need this type of search. Perhaps if we have bits and pieces of the article we would be able to find the exact article. I thought this might be helpful for teachers or librarians investigating student plagiarism. I decided to try this method of searching in Academic Search Premier. I selected SmartText from the Advanced Search options and then I cut and paste in the box the sentence, "Cardiologists from Chicago report the case of a healthy 23-year old woman who was brought to the emergency room because of palpitations (a feeling of her heart racing) and chest tightness shortly after she drank GNC Speed Shot and a Mountain Dew soft drink. Her heart rate was dangerously high, and the doctors had to give her a medication to reduce it to normal."

I got 158,566 results (full text, 2005-2008) and the original article with that text was not listed as a top result, I couldn't find it, it was buried somewhere within those other articles. Over 100,000 citations is an awful lot to go through, especially when the simple search on caffeine produced a mere 821 citations (full text, 2005-2008). I am not so sure how SmartText is at all helpful to anybody.

Final Thoughts:

I like the overall look and feel of the new EBSCO 2.0. I think the display is cleaner and easier to navigate. I especially like hovering to view the abstract and the fact that bookmarking is easier.

I am still not a fan of EBSCO's search interface for medical or nursing searching. I think Ovid handles mapping much better and still has the best search interface (despite its quirks). If I could just attach Ovid's mapping and search interface with the rest of EBSCO 2.0's features and design, I would be a happy searching librarian.

I am confused as to how certain features like IQV, the Date Slider, SmartText would be helpful, relevant or needed by medical librarians searching the medical and nursing and allied health literature.

Don't forget to try EBSCO 2.0 out for yourself and read about the enhancements and changes. Tomorrow is July and EBSCO said it will release 2.0 sometime in July, so there is not much time left to play around before it goes live.

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The Krafty Librarian has been a medical librarian since 1998. She is currently the medical librarian for a hospital system in Ohio. You can email her at: