Comparison of Retrieval Performance of Eleven Online Indexes Containing Information Related to Quaternary Research, an Interdisciplinary Science

Article excerpt

Interdisciplinary research offers increasing information challenges for researchers and scholars as well as for librarians. Quaternary research is an example of a highly interdisciplinary area incorporating research ranging from geochemistry and microbiology to planetary science. This study compares retrieval performance of eleven online indexes that can be used for Quaternary research, and discusses three others. Recall, precision, and overlap and uniqueness were analyzed using search results (12,896 records) from the eleven databases for the publication year 2000. A broad search strategy was used in order to recover most of the relevant information from the databases for the whole discipline for one publication year in order to avoid problems encountered when using sampling and example searches. Implications for interdisciplinary research in general are discussed, and federated searching is suggested.

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Given the exponential increase of information, staying current in a particular discipline, verifying a particular citation, or conducting an exhaustive search for information on a particular topic can be daunting to researchers and scholars. Helping the researchers and scholars with their information quests can be taxing for librarians and information specialists. The switch from print to online indexes is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the online indexes uncover much more information, but on the other, sorting through the mountain of information can be frustrating and time consuming. Quaternary research is an example of a highly interdisciplinary area whose researchers, scholars, and supporting librarians are faced with these problems.

QUATERNARY RESEARCH: ITS NATURE AND IMPORTANCE

Quaternary research is the study of the Quaternary, which is the period of time that spans approximately the last 2.6 million years of the Earth's geologic history. (1) The Quaternary geologic time period includes the Pleistocene, sometimes known as the Ice Age, and the Holocene, which is the geologic epoch in which we live. (2) The Pleistocene covers the time period spanning approximately two million years to ten thousand years ago, and the Holocene includes the period spanning approximately ten thousand years ago to the present. Scientists currently disagree regarding the exact boundaries and dates for the beginning of the Quaternary, and whether it should be retained as a formal chronostratigraphic unit (a body of rock officially recognized as a unit based on the age of its boundaries). (3) In fact, the most recent International Commission on Stratigraphy removed the term "Quaternary" from the International Geologic Time Scale and included that interval of time in the Neogene Period. (4) The terminology is still being hotly debated among the geologic community, but no matter what the time period is called, or when the exact initial boundary is set, that geologic period of time will undoubtedly remain an extremely important area of research.

The study of the Quaternary time period is particularly interdisciplinary. (5) Figure 1 shows many of the areas of specialty within Quaternary research. Quaternary researchers study ice cores; ocean sediments; ocean circulation; lake sediments; cycles of the earth and sun; atmosphere; fossils and modern plants and animals, including invertebrates, vertebrates, insects, and pollen; and other subjects. Current topics of importance include atmospheric, ocean, and terrestrial interactions and the building of testable computer models; for example, models that can be used to predict climate change, sea level rise, or ocean circulation patterns.

Figure 1: Many of the Areas of
Specialty in Quaternary Research

Anthropology and archaeology
Biology
Botany
Climatology
Ecology
Entomology
Geochronology
Geography
Geology
Geomorphology
Geophysics
Glaciology
Hydrogeology
Isotope geochemistry
Limnology
Molecular genetics
Oceanography and oceanology
Paleoceanography and paleoceanology
Paleoecology
Paleontology
Palynology
Planetary geology
Soil Science and pedology
Structural geology and neotectonics
Volcanology
Zoology

During the Quaternary, the Earth has experienced frequent, extreme, and often abrupt climate and environmental changes, including the advance and retreat of continental and mountain glaciers. …