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Review about ABI/INFORM

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Service/portal name: http://www.proquest.com; http://www.proquest.com

Source description: ABI/Inform began in 1971 when three graduate students at Portland State University were charged with designing a system that would improve corporate access to business literature.

Inspired by the information service developed at a local power company and with contributions from a University of Wisconsin database project called Inform, the students succeeded in developing their system.

After graduation they founded a small company that merged their new brand, ABI (Abstracted Business Information) with the Wisconsin database name, Inform, and ABI/Inform was born.

The product generated minimal interest and profits until a Kentucky newspaper owner purchased it in 1973 and made the file available in Dialog. Initially, documents were in abstract-only form.

But full-text records were added in 1991, making the product a forerunner among document delivery services for full-text information. After a bitter family argument, the Kentucky media giants sold ABI/Inform to UMI (University Microfilms) in 1986.

ABI/Inform supplies journal articles and abstracts of articles that contain business and management content.

The database covers 1,116 periodicals (including a small number of business newspapers such as Barron’s), of which 65 percent provide their articles in full text.

ABI is known for providing more extensive archival information than its competitors; some retrospective articles date back to 1971. The average date span covers the past ten years.

ABI/Inform targets all environments that depend on business information – academic, corporate, and public.

Because the service provides prolific amounts of business literature and can be expensive (depending on the institution size, number of users, and subscriptiond details), most subscribers are larger, research-oriented organizations.

Broad topical coverage includes business conditions and trends, management techniques, corporate strategies, and industry information on both a domestic and global level.

Aside from the ProQuest portal, ABI/Inform content may be accessed through any of the following products: Dialog (http://www.dialog.com), Ovid/Silverplatter (http://www.ovid.com), OCLC/FirstSearch (http://www.oclc.org), and the corporate version of LexisNexis (http://www.lexis-nexis.com).

Pricing: An annual subscription to ABI/Inform ranges from $6,000 to approximately $75,000.

Source content: This section describes the content and related features of ABI/Inform under the following five categories:

1. Origin of Information. ABI/Inform does not create its content; rather, it gathers content created by others and provide the search engine and indexing that allows the information to be searchable.

Journal aggregators such as ABI/Inform and evaluated on both the volume and quality of the incorporated publications and the effectiveness of the search engine.

2. Navigation. Six features are presented on the top horizontal navigation bar: Collections, Search Methods, Topic Find Browse Lists, Results & Marked List, and Search Guide.

The key to searching ABI/Inform lies in understanding how successfully use the search tools.

The Search Methods button the researcher’s primary instrument. From Search Method the researcher has five different options, allowing for a range of searching styles – from “quick and dirty” searching in the Basic module to precision level in the Guided module.

3. Search Methods. The Basic search contains four drop box and three check-box options for fine-tuning a search.

The search box allows for keyword searching of an article. The use is guided to fill in the box with a word, words, or special phrase.

The user next specifies a data range by choosing Current (1999-Present), Backfile (1986-1998), or Deep Back file (Prior to 1986); the default is Current.

For Publication Type, the user is prompted to choose All, Periodicals, or New papers; the default is All.

Identifying whether the keyword should search just the citations and abstracts or the entire article text is the next step; the default is Citations and Abstracts.

The searchers can further limit the results by clicking on a check box to turn on three different options: show result with full-text availability only, show articles from peer-review publications only, and a more unusual limiter, or show to number of articles.

Most journal aggregators automatics provide the total number of hits somewhere on the result pages. It is unusual that ABI/Inform does not. The search may turn on this feature by clicking a box.

For the researcher requiring more defined searching options, there are advantages to using the other four search tools.

The Guided search is geared toward precision searching. Whereas the basic engine is useful for “free searching” – looking for general research ideas – Gude search is best for the user with a citation in-hand: someone who already knows the article title or author.

This tool allows for limiting by Article Type. For instance, it is possible to narrow a search to editorials, cover stories, or interviews. Customizing the search to a specific company or geographic area is also possible.

The Advanced Word search page is arranged with the basic search interfaces on the top half and the Search Guide as the bottom half.

It presents a method of searching various codes, a thesaurus, a hierarchical map of terms, and other tools that will encourage the user to choose search terms based on the way the indexing has been set up.

The idea is to show how the categories and subcategories of subjects are arranged, so that the user will understand the logic and make better keyword and subject choices and hence receive better search results.

Two features show how to search ABI/Inform using code numbers instead of words. Guides that offer information on connection operators (AND, NOT, etc.), stop words (ignored words such as “a,” “the,” etc.), and truncation techniques are also included.

Natural Language allows the user to search ABI/Inform in a conversational style. That is, you can ask the database a question, much as in the Internet-based search engine Ask Jeeves (http://www.askjeeves.com).

The results list shows red graphic “stars” next to each article to indicate relevance. With the Publication search tool, the researcher types the title of the desired journal into a search box.

If the journal is part of the ABI/Inform database, a page of links appears, each link representing a volume/issue.

When the user clicks on a link, the table of contents and list of articles for that particular volume are displayed.

The user cannot perform a keyword search of a particular volume in this search module, but such a keyword search for a particular journal can be done in the Guided Search mode.

4. Highlights of Other Web Features. The Topic Finder offers an alternative to the “keywords-and-search-box” style of article searching. With Topic Finder, a hierarchy of hyperlinked business-related topics and subtopics are presented.

The interface initially shows six main topic areas: Business & Industry, Computers & Internet, Economics & Trade, Environment, Government & Law, and Social Issues & Policy.

When the user clicks on one of these, another group of hyperlinked subtopics appear. After clicking on a subtopic, the user gets a selection of article links to choose from.

Browse Lists offers a straight list of A-Z terms that are a combination of subjects, people, places, and companies. Under each term is a link prompting the user to use the View Articles link. Many of the terms also have a Narrow by Related Terms link.

The user may either click hyperlinked alphabetical letters or enter a word in the search box to navigate through the list of terms.

The Results and Marked List button offers three features: Marked List & Durable Links, Results List, and Recent Searches. Marked List & Durable Links is a tool for managing saved articles.

This section presents the user with the check marked “favorite” articles that were selected.

The user has the optin of saving the durable link to the article by clicking the Export button. The user may then cut and paste the link as URL into a browser and the article will be available for perust for one month. Printing the article is also an option.

Whether an article contains the abstract or full text of an article indicated by icons of a camera or a sheet of paper, respectively. The words “abstract” and “full text” do not appear.

This might be confusing to a researcher who doesn’t understand the icons.
Also of note is a new tool called ProQuest SiteBuilder.

The tool makes ABI/Inform articles available on third-party Websites. Results List and Recent Searches are the article list results page of the latest search and a list of all the current session executed search strings.

5. Special Services and Competitor Comparison. In addition to offering ProQuest SiteBuilder, ABI/Inform has other change in the works.

ABI/Inform’s Archive Database is a recent addition, offering historical back-file content of twenty fivebusiness periodicals, with coverage dates beginning in the early twentieth century.

The back file includes image access which allows viewing of advertisements from decades past. One of the newer features is the integration of Hoover’s company profiles, although I was unable to access these from my portal.

A simple search of ABI and its main competitor, Business Source Premier, indicates a significant difference in the number and relevance of article results.

Using the basic-level search option in Business Source Premier and ABI/Inform, executed a search for the phrase small business among articles published in 2002.

I received 35 results using ABI/Inform and 116 using Business Source Premier ABI/Inform results are more exact, according to the company’s literature, because the articles are indexed with a high level of detail.

This style of indexing, combined with an effective controlled vocabulary, culminates in what ABI branch “relevance bias.” ABI/Inform indexes some unique fields success as article type, geographic name, classification code, persons name, headnote and document column head.

Source evaluation: If your organization is interested in purchasing the “Rolls Royce” of business journal databases, ABI/Inform is the database for you.

ABI/Inform offers precision searching, dialy data updates, superior technical service, useful archival content, and tools, such as the ProQuest SiteBuilder, that respond to the changing technological needs of its customers.

The tools are arranged logically under main buttons, allowing the user to quickly identify the location of features.

Depending upon the type of institution and needs of its users, all environments may not need the high-powered features of ABI/Inform.

ABI offers superior indexing and a search engine with more options than its competitors, but it comes at a price.

A general cost analysis for a mid-to-large-sized academic institution suggests that an annual subscription price of ABI/Inform costs 35-45 percent more than a similar contract with EBSCO’s Business Source Premier.

Aside from being more economical, Business Source Premier offers a less complicated interface and easier-to-use, albeit less effective, search tools.

Besides, it provides access to more full-text journals: 2,800 compared with ABI/Inform’s 1,116. Keep in mind that “more” might not always mean “better.”

Looking through a specific crop of the best business journals could make for a better search pool than choosing from a larger unrefined group of irrelevant journals.

Source value rating: All of the data source reviewers were asked to rate each source on the basis of the following eight categories, sing “10” as the highest rating and “1” as the lowest (“80” being a perfect score):

1. Relative cost-to-value:   6
2. Relative timeliness of data:   10
3. Relative comprehensiveness of data:  7
4. Ease of use:     10
5. Search options available:   10
6. Level of support services:   8
7. Level of training offered:   8
8. Amount/kinds of special services offered: 10
Total Rating:     69

Useful tips
• Use the Basic search module when executing keyword and subject searches.

• Use the Guided search module when you know the publication title, author, or article title.

• Use the Publication search module when you are interested in browsing a particular journal volume.

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