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cover of Woman's Work & Worth

If you’ve ever watched “American Idol” or any other talent show, you know how it works: each week, someone who is a at the very least a decent singer is going to get voted off because they just didn’t excite the judges enough, connect with viewers, or differentiate themselves from the other competitors.

What does all this have to do with librarians, researchers and scholars? You, too, have to provide something unique and valuable. We’re all hyper-connected, scrambling to compete in the same social media circles, vying to show off our “style” to our bosses (or professors, or online audiences). But if we all use the same information sources and methods of searching, we end up singing in the same voices, if you will; we risk blending in, instead of standing out.

No wonder there’s such a big business in search engine optimization! We’re desperate to show off how unique we are, and grab our desired audiences before someone else does.

[Photo:] If I'd known there was a book on this... well, I might even use an iron sometimes.

A researcher, scholar, or teacher may feel removed from all this, but rest assured your audience is just as interested in one-of-a-kind, revelatory, and enlightening insight—just like a talent judge.

We’ve got a whole generation—heck, a whole population—either being raised on, or conditioned to, searching for anything they need on Google. And studies show that most searchers will not go beyond the initial findings:

“…an information [seeker] will tend to use the most convenient search method, in the least exacting mode available. Information seeking behavior stops as soon as minimally acceptable results are found. This theory holds true regardless of the user's proficiency as a searcher, or their level of subject expertise.” – Wikipedia, Principle of least effort

According to Searchenginejournal.com, “75% of [Google] users never scroll past the first page of search results.”

ProQuest search results are like Google results, but on steroids. They take researchers beyond the first-page findings to uncover the kind of details that can only be found in ProQuest. For example:

-- Literature Online (LION), the leading online resource for the study and teaching of literature in English, offers authoritative source editions selected by an advisory board of renowned scholars. This material is suitable for teaching and research in universities, with the entirety of the text available to search and read. Google’s offerings are less complete, generally lacking the earliest editions suitable for scholarly study, and only a small percentage are available in Full View.
-- In LION, you can use keywords to trace word usage, themes, and patterns across multiple books or a complete genre. With Google, you can only enter a simple keyword search within a single book.
-- ProQuest’s Early European Books is the only source for many early (pre-1700) works, including those owned by Galileo—with his own annotations. Most libraries don’t allow Google to digitize their earliest, rarest, most valuable books, because Google takes them offsite to scan them, and doesn’t have the specialized scanners necessary for very large or fragile books.

Even if you’re now starting to think that using ProQuest instead of Google will give you a competitive edge, you’re probably still wondering if you will have to toss Google’s familiar search process in order to find the more robust information in ProQuest.

Not at all. Check out this entertaining blog post by Dave Pattern, the Library Systems Manager at the University of Huddersfield in the U.K., who analyzed his library’s usage stats after launching ProQuest’s Summon(R) discovery service. He recognized the need for a Google-like search experience and notes that “there is a very good reason why Summon looks more like Google and less like <insert name of your favourite database here>.” Perhaps the most compelling statistic he cites is the 300 to 1000% increase in the COUNTER full-text downloads for many of the journal platforms they subscribe to, after launching Summon.

So if you’ve been relying on Google for research, know that ProQuest can be your secret weapon for deep indexed and reliable information. ProQuest will help you stand out from the crowd. Start searching - then start “singing!"

14 Jun 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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