UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc

Article excerpt

UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc

UMI Periodical Abstract Ondisc is a refreshing addition to the growing number of CD-ROM databases. This new database competes with Readers' Guide on CD from Wilsondisc, Ebsco's Magazine Article Summaries, and Infotrac: Magazine Index from Information Access Corp.

UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc shares many of the useful qualities of the competing products, but has its own attractive style and features.

Searching Is Easy, Yet Elegant

What all database users want, and need, is the basic ability to search for a term or terms, view the search results, and print the results. UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc easily achieves this basic objective and operates more efficiently than most other databases. At the same time, the search software used by UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc is unique and elegant. Boolean logic, proximity operators, truncation, limiting by field, and browsing are all available.

Competing databases, like Wilsondisc, do not show the user the form of the search term that is used by the software. As a result, when I began using the Wilsondisc database, I labored to combine singular and plural search items for a long time, until I finally realized that (in the Wilsearch mode) both plural and singular items resulted in the same search term.

When a search item is entered into UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc, the user is shown exactly what term is being searched. For example, if "pesticides" is keyboarded by the user, UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc displays the search term "Pesticide," and will retrieve both singular and plural forms of the word. UMI's software will not automatically search for anything other than plurals, however. Thus, entering "engineers" retrieves "engineer" and "engineers" but not "engineering."

Periodical Abstracts Ondisc handles stop-words, or what UMI calls noise-words, in a rather nice way. When the searcher enters "Gone with the Wind," the terms "with" and "the" are replaced with a proximity operator that automatically searches for "gone" within two words of "wind."

Displays Are Uncluttered

CD-ROM database displays are often crowded with options. While this practice may benefit seasoned searchers, a plethora of options can be intimidating to novice searchers, and libraries seem to have a never-ending supply of novices using databases. Uncrowded displays and straightforward screen prompts make UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc one of the easiest to use, yet most powerful CD-ROM products on the market.

However, no database is without some flaws, and UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc still has plenty of room for improvement. For example, after the initial search, a rather nondescript list of titles is displayed. Unwary users will probably not understand what they have found until they are able to view the full records for the retrieved items. This preliminary list should include some added information with each title, such as the journal name and date. Users would also benefit by not having to input a second command to get the bibliographic information, and, when a search retrieves only one record, the full record should be immediately displayed.

Coverage of Periodicals Is Titled

Towards Popularity

Covering over 300 general interest periodicals, UMI Periodical Abstracts Ondisc includes article abstracts from magazines such as Newsweek, Byte, Science, and Fortune. According to the accompanying manual, periodicals were selected from Katz' Magazines for Libraries and Magazines for School Libraries, with magazines listed as basic reference sources given priority. Preference was also given to journals with large circulation. Receipt of numerous requests from UMI's own reprint and microfilm services was also used as a basis for periodical selection.

The criteria of large circulation and numerous requests would appear to reflect the popularity rather than the quality of a periodical. …