Research Tools - Fall 2001

ProQuest Databases Debut, InfoTrac Bows Out

On October 16th, NPLN (Northeastern Pennsylvania Library Network), officially launched its new website—located at and its new virtual online catalog. Powered by OCLC's SiteSearch software, the Virtual Online Catalog allows users to search the catalogs of the eight participating institutions simultaneously. The power of the SiteSearch software is that it is able to take the data from six different online library catalog systems: DRA (University of Scranton), Dynix (Marywood University, Luzerne County Community College), Horizon (King's College), Innovative Interfaces (Osterhout Free Library), Sirsi (Scranton Public Library, College Misericordia) and VTLS (Wilkes University) and manipulate the data from these different systems so that a meaningful search can be performed.Searching NPLN's new Virtual Online Catalog is easy! The following are some tips and techniques to get the most out of your searches. From the NPLN home page, use either the scrolling top bar or the text link at the bottom of the page to select: Search Online Catalog. Instantly you will be brought to NPLN's Online Catalog. The first thing you need to do is select what library or libraries catalog(s) you are going to search. The catalogs have been conveniently grouped by county (Lackawanna or Luzerne), type (academic or public), all libraries, individual libraries, or you can create your own group by selecting from the library catalogs available.
If you decide to create your own group of library catalogs to search you must give your group a name. After you select the libraries to search and give your new group a name you will be taken back to the first screen with all of the library "groups" again. At this point, select the name of the group you have created to begin the search. (When you are finished searching the NPLN Online Catalog and the website, the group you have created goes away and must be recreated again if you return to the NPLN Online Catalog at a later time.) With your group selected, you will now be taken to the main search screen. Take notice of the labeled "tabs" above your group's name. There are several choices for searching: Titles, Authors, Keywords, and Advanced. (The Browse tab is not currently available for searching.) To use any of the search features you must click on the individual tab for the feature you want. The default choice is always Keywords (notice that this tab is highlighted, indicating that it is in use.) Keywords are any words used in all the indexed fields of a library's catalog records. The blank space next to the "Search" button is where you can type the terms you are going to use in your search.
The Weinberg Memorial Library began a subscription this summer to the ProQuest databases. We now have online access to the ABI/INFORM Global database (for business information), the Periodical Abstracts Research II Periodicals and Newspapers databases (covering the arts, business, humanities, health, social sciences, and sciences), and the National Newspapers database (which includes the full-text of the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Washington Post, plus 24 other newspapers). Owned by ProQuest Information and Learning (formerly Bell & Howell/UMI), the ProQuest databases index over 3,489 journals, magazines, and newspapers, and are similar in concept to the InfoTrac databases: that is, coverage is interdisciplinary, the majority of articles indexed are full-text, and access for some sources goes as far back as 1980. The Library had initially sampled ProQuest in a trial period begun early spring semester and extended until the end of the semester. The feedback from our students, faculty and staff was overall very positive about ProQuest. After weighing all the factors, the librarians decided at the end of the semester to subscribe to ProQuest and cancel our subscription to InfoTrac. InfoTrac will be available until the end of the summer, allowing a period of transition for all to get used to the new database. The reasons for choosing ProQuest were many. The primary reason, however, was a growing perception among our users that too many articles which were "supposed to be" in an InfoTrac database were not. Frequently librarians would discover that a "missing" article was one to which the author held the rights and had not granted permission to the database. While we have found some articles to be unavailable in ProQuest as well, the incidence appears to be less frequent than with InfoTrac. (Apparently it is no coincidence that ProQuest also owns Serials and Newspapers in Microforms.) A poster session presented at the 1998 ALA annual conference by Carol Franck and Holly Chambers entitled "How Full is the Full in Full-Text?: A Comparative Study of Paper Periodicals with Their Web-Based Equivalents in the Ebsco, Information Access Company (IAC), UMI, and Wilson Databases" ( that ProQuest (then called UMI) was superior to InfoTrac (IAC) and two other vendors in "representing the full content of a paper issue electronically. UMI had the highest percentage of full-text issues as well as the most complete representation of content through its scanned PDF files. It also had the shortest lag time for entering data." Clearly, ProQuest sets and maintains high standards for quality control.
Another factor in ProQuest's favor was that for essentially the same price, the Library would have access to 400+ additional journals than in InfoTrac. It is true that we will lose access to some journals in InfoTrac that are not available in ProQuest, but hopefully the additional titles and the more comprehensive coverage will offset that loss. There were many other factors that convinced us as well. For example, ProQuest makes it easier to browse a publication's table of contents for a particular issue. By moving the pointer over the link for "Search Methods" at the top of the screen, the clicking on "Publication," one can type in the name of the publication, let's say, the Wall Street Journal, select the June 22, 2001 issue, and browse all 142 articles in that issue, online. ProQuest also allows users to e-mail an entire list of full-text articles to themselves from the marked records, rather than having to send them individually as in InfoTrac. Users may also search all the databases simultaneously; in InfoTrac, users must search Business Index and Expanded Academic Index individually. Lastly, the search interface is easier search rather than to the subject search as in InfoTrac, and allowing easy access to back files (pre-1999 material).
As previously mentioned, the databases contained in ProQuest are:
  1. ABI/INFORM Global, which indexes over 1500 worldwide business periodicals. This database is a good source of information on advertising, marketing, economics, humanresources, finance, taxation, and over 60,000 companies.
  2. PA Research II Periodicals, which indexes over 1800 periodicals covering a wide range of disciplines in the humanities, business, and the sciences.
  3. PA Research II Newspapers, which indexes (and provides full-text to) The New York Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, and Barron's.
  4. National Newspapers, which indexes 32 important U.S., international (The Guardian), and minority interest papers, most of which are full-text.
Of course there is always a learning curve associated with any new database, but the interface is relatively simple to use. Upon entering ProQuest, you will be taken to the "Basic" search screen which searches all four databases. Here you may type in your key words, and limit your search by several features: by "full-text," by "peer reviewed," by date, by publication type, or by where to search – in the abstract or in the full-text of an article. You may also limit your search to a specific database by clicking on "Collections" at the top of the search screen and selecting the one or ones you want.
If you are stymied by what search terms to use, ProQuest provides you with some very easy-to-use options. You may go to "Browse Lists" at the top of the screen, where you can search and choose from lists of "Personal Names," "Locations and Places," "Companies," and "Subjects." You may also explore the "Topic Finder," which directs you from a broad topic to very specific subjects.
Once you've selected your search terms, search results are displayed in groups of 10 citations. The format legend indicates whether full-text or just citation information for an article is provided. If full-text is available, the legend also indicates whether graphics are available, too. Actually, there are three types of "full-text" available: text only, text plus graphics, and scanned PDF files. (Of the latter two options, the ‘text plus graphics' option provides the higher quality images.
For more experienced searchers, ProQuest also provides a "Guided" search screen, allowing them to specify in which fields they want to search. Users may search by company or organization name, by geographical name, by product name, by image caption, by personal name, as well as by the standard key word and subject options. With the addition of the ProQuest databases to our array of "Electronic Indexes," we believe that the research needs of our University students and faculty will be well served, and we invite you to try out the new databases. As always, if you have any questions, or would like a demonstration of the database and its features, just stop by the reference desk or call 941-4000, or e-mail us at

Linda Neyer
Pride, Passion, Promise: Experience Our Jesuit Tradition