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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Summer 1997

Book Reviews

Mary D. Stoner
Engineering Library
Princeton University


Literature Searching in Science, Technology, and Agriculture. Rev. ed. Eileen Pritchard and Paula R. Scott. Westport, CT : Greenwood Press, 1996. 196p. hardcover $59.95 (ISBN 0-313-26212-8)
Based on its title, I thought I was going to be reading a book about "online literature searching", aimed at the information professional. This was only partially true. The book does incorporate text about online literature searching, but this is only part of the work, which is actually a guidebook to finding information in science and technology. The book is targeted towards the end-user, and the information presented is basic and well suited to a beginning researcher.

The book evenly covers print and electronic resources which can help the end-user find specific information such as articles, books, reviews, tabulated data, etc. in the sci-tech disciplines. Most areas are examined, although environmental coverage is light, and discussion of the geosciences and patent literature or tools is lacking. Nowhere is critical evaluation in information-seeking mentioned. Despite this, the book does cover a number of subject areas and types of sources, and is therefore appropriate as a basic introduction.

The book begins with an introduction to libraries (both "traditional" and "electronic"), their structures and staff. An explanation of the creation and organization of scientific and technological literature is included. An undergraduate or graduate student might particularly benefit from the chapter devoted to choosing a research topic.

The second part of the book details how to find books, articles, and the like through use of the online (and/or card) catalog and print indexes and abstracts. General and life sciences, physical sciences, current and non-journal information, and finally government information are all covered. Good explanations of keyword searching are provided, although it may be misleading to state that "keyword indexes include words from the title and contents note". Some online catalogs (e.g., NOTIS) provide indexing for virtually all words in a bibliographic record. The relevance of citation searching and following the literature path is emphasized.

The third and final part of the book builds upon the second part to discuss access to electronic databases (remotely or via CD-ROM), as well as other libraries' online catalogs. A brief Internet introduction, and advantages of digital information to the researcher are noted. Since this book was published in March of 1996 but reviewed in July of 1997, some of the computer technology terminology and usage (gopher, Archie, Mosaic, etc.) seemed outdated.

The book describes the work of online database producers and vendors. Things to be aware of in electronic searching, such as precision and recall, controlled vocabulary, and Boolean/proximity searching, are included. Sections which enumerate the advantages of database searching plus steps for conducting an online search are also useful.

Some of the helpful appendices (which listed subject-specific indexes & abstracts, journals, review literature, and electronic databases) from the first edition are not included in the second edition. Bibliographies which had not been updated (list of style manuals) or annotated (list of sources for searching online), errors, and typos were at times disconcerting.

For those doing research in a specific field, one may wish to consult this book to get an overview before continuing with a more advanced work which discusses his or her area of interest in more depth. It definitely shouldn't be the ONLY resource one turns to, but it could be insightful in combination with other resources.

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