Conducting computerbased searches

The way in which we obtain information is changing rapidly. A decade or two ago, most literature searching was done manually. Computerized literature databases were searchable only through a mainframe, searching software was difficult to use, and online searching was expensive and limited in scope. Specially trained librarians did most of the searching, and researchers paid telecommunication charges for reaching the mainframe and were charged for each record received.

Today, in many fields, a literature search that once took six months to a year can often be done in less than ten minutes, and with far more thorough results. Thousands ofspecialized databases exist around the world. Database software has become increasingly user-friendly. Research libraries and even moderately sized community libraries buy site licenses to various indexes, and offer their clients free searching of CD-ROMs and mainframe-mounted indexes. The Internet offers direct access to both new and old sources of information.

The upshot of this revolution is that you need to know how to conduct a literature search yourself. Whether you consider this a blessing or a curse depends on your approach to the task and your knowledge of available resources.

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