Indexing and Abstracting on the World Wide Web: An Examination of Six Web Databases

By Nicholson, Scott | Information Technology and Libraries, June 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Indexing and Abstracting on the World Wide Web: An Examination of Six Web Databases

Nicholson, Scott, Information Technology and Libraries

Web databases, commonly known as search engines or Web directories, are currently the most useful way to search the Internet. In this article, the author draws from library literature to develop a series of questions that can be used to analyze these Web searching tools. Six popular Web databases are analyzed using this method. Using this analysis, the author creates three categories for Web databases and explores the most appropriate searches to perform with each. The work concludes with a proposal for the ideal Web database.

The Internet provides a link to many valuable information sources with no centralized database for organization and searching. Many individual Web databases and their attached search engines accessible through the World Wide Web compete to provide subject and keyword access to information available through the Internet. These databases are created by both humans and automated computer programs called "spiders" or "robots." As there is no standard (such as an AACR2R variant) for description of Web pages, each engine provides access in a unique way to a different database. This article will examine the methods used to collect information about the information resources, the indexing used, and the abstracting done as of February 25, 1997, in these six Web databases:


Alta Vista: http://www.altavista. digital. com


Open Text: http://index.opentext. net


Magellan: http://www.mckinley. com

To evaluate these databases from the viewpoint of an indexer/abstracter, three aspects will be examined: collection methods, indexing, and abstracting. The following questions, selected from Auster (1986), Conhaim, (1996), Courtois, Baer, and Stark (1995), Katz (1992), Lancaster (1991), Venditto (1996), and Winship (1995), will be examined for each database:

Collection Methods

* How are sites selected (human/ automation)?

* What selection criteria are used? What types of Internet resources are analyzed?

* What is the scope of searching the Internet for sites?

* How long does it take a site to be included?

* How often are the entries updated?

* How large is the database and how fast is it growing?


* Which parts of the site are indexed? Are these parts appropriate surrogates for the work?

* Is a controlled vocabulary used? Is it available to end-users?

* How is the keyword indexing accomplished?

* How can users search the indexed terms?


* What is included in a displayed citation?

* Can the user discern where the citation came from?

* How valuable is the displayed citation in assisting a user to predict usefulness?

* Are there descriptions, abstracts, or reviews presented for the site? How are they created?


* For what type of searching is this database suited?

* For what type of searcher is the search engine created?

* How could the database/search engine be improved?

* How can an author assist the database service in accurate indexing and abstracting?


Lycos, the "Catalog of the Internet," is one of the oldest search engines on the Web. It was started at the Center for Machine Translation at Carnegie Mellon University in 1994 (Mauldin and Leavitt, 1994). Lycos is one of the most popular Web databases and was the first search engine available from the Netscape Net Search button (Notess, 1995). It currently shares that honor with Web Crawler, Excite, Yahoo, and Infoseek. Besides the Web database, Lycos provides access to a subject directory, the top 5 percent of the Web, and information on cities, stocks, individuals, and companies.

Collection Methods

Upon request by a user, Lycos sends out a spider that navigates the site, recording information in the database.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Indexing and Abstracting on the World Wide Web: An Examination of Six Web Databases


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?