Magazine article Online

A Model for Quality Business Searching

Magazine article Online

A Model for Quality Business Searching

Article excerpt

Most business information specialists follow a simple model when responding to reference questions. It is the RQAQ model. That stands for "Receive Question. Answer Question."

How they find the answer to the question tends to be a combination of known sources and informed intuition. In other words, the knowledge gained from education and training plus the knowledge gained from simply "doing reference" for a long time combines to make the expert business information specialist a superb question answerer.

A theoretical model of how business information specialist answer questions helps focus the thought patterns of business librarians, particularly the beginner. It is also helpful in rethinking a question when source knowledge and intuition fail to find the answer. The theoretical model of answering business questions must be considered in tandem with the practical realities of database construction when electronic sources are used.

Quality is the third element of the process. Quality is the responsibility of all parties in the research process. Database hosts must provide adequate and appropriate software and train users. Database producers must present accurate data. Information specialists must understand the components of the search process and perform quality searches.


When you ask business librarians to categorize the questions they receive, the first answer is likely to be:

(1) company information

(2) industry information

If probed, they decide there are two other categories:

(3) management theory

(4) business climate

Within these four basic types of information lie two subsets. Company, industry, management and business climate information can be either (1) quantitative or (2) qualitative. For company and industry information, the starting point can be either (1) general or (2) specific.

Take the question "What is the latest financial information on Volvo?" This is a company question. It requires quantitative information. The starting point is specific, i.e., the company name is given to the reasearcher.

Now consider the question "What are the top earning companies in Scandinavia?" Again this is a company question that requires looking at quantitative information. However, the starting point is general. The requester does not know the specific companies that meet the criteria of the request. Instead, the list of specific company names must be generated by the researcher.

This simple taxonomy of business questions allows the researcher to choose relevant databases with which to answer the question. Other points to consider in choosing databases to answer business questions revolve around the characteristics of business databases themselves.


Business databases are constructed around several parameters, each of which must be taken into consideration in choosing a database.

Subject matter: The most obvious parameter is subject matter. Does the database focus on general management topics (ABI/INFORM or Management Abstracts) or on industry-specific articles (PTS PROMT or Trade & Industry). Does it concentrate on the U.S. business scene (Management Contents) or does it have an international focus (TEXTLINE or Informat). Does the database report on financial matters (DISCLOSURE or IDD) rather than news (Financial Times or TEXTLINE). Is the subject matter devoted to a single academic pursuit (Economic Literature Index) or a single industry (Chemical Information News or FINIS).

Record format: Format of the records in the database can be a critical factor in database choice. Formats can be full text, abstract and index, citation, directory, numeric, or hybrid. There is a growing demand for full-text database records. Keep in mind, however, and caution the receiver of these full-text records that "full" is not the same as what one sees on the printed page of a newspaper or magazine. …

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