Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

The Environment and Your Health: The Search Language

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

The Environment and Your Health: The Search Language

Article excerpt

Words, words, words. We live, study, and work in a world of words, yet most of us struggle with being effective in how we communicate. Some 3,000 years ago, Solomon expressed this idea when he considered that "some things never change." There is no end to words. Our mouths never run out of them and our ears are never completely filled. There always seems to be room for more. Of course, communication involves much more than words, but for the purpose of this discussion, I will focus my remarks on written and spoken words as a means of communicating about research related to the environment and your health.

It is essential to keep in mind that language is dynamic. New terms appear regularly and old terms are frequently revised. This discussion represents the current state of affairs with the language of environmental and human health from the perspective of the Library of Congress (LC), National Agriculture Library (NAL), and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The discussion will be based on Library of Congress subject headings with related terms presented in a table with NAL and NLM headings for comparison purposes. Therefore, the coverage of this topic is not meant to be comprehensive, only timely. My purpose is to expand your awareness of the language used in this interdisciplinary field so your research efforts related to this topic are more effective and efficient. The following aspects of the intersection of environmental and human health are discussed: Biological Control, Bioremediation, Botanicals, Environmental Health, Horticultural Therapy, and Organic Farming. Any number of other fields could be examined. These serve as representative examples to illustrate how library research tools can be used to either enhance or hinder your literature search results.

The importance of this issue could be illustrated with the following example. Your research interests involve bioremediation of certain agricultural products, such as pesticides, that are suspected of causing severe health problems for residents of a rural community near the area where these pesticides are applied. In order to save time, you decide to review the literature by simultaneously searching Agricola, NAL database, and Medline, NLM database. However, by using "bioremediation" as a subject term, your results will be very misleading since NLM does not recognize this term, hence you retrieve nothing from Medline. Unless, you happen to notice that the results are from only one database, you might conclude that you have made a good beginning with your literature review, when in fact, you have missed entirely, a very important source of information.

Controlled vocabularies are common elements of electronic and print databases used to search for books or articles in library or database collections. These vocabularies take the form of thesauri, indexes, subject headings, and descriptors. They are sometimes available in print and regularly revised by database producers. These vocabularies include broader and narrower terms, "see also" references, "used for" references, and similar designations, but the print versions are rather tedious to work with if they are large in size, such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Using the online version of these vocabularies can improve the quality of your search results by returning items more relevant to your needs. Keyword searching has allowed many to bypass this important strategy. Like any "quick fix" or "shortcut" methodology, keyword searching may undermine the development of our fundamental understanding of a discipline since the language of that discipline will largely escape our notice. It is not that keyword searching is "bad." it is just that, keyword searching alone, will result in an incomplete picture of available information relevant to your topic. Keyword searching is, in fact, a good way to begin and to identify the controlled vocabulary associated with items in your field of interest. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.