Magazine article Online

Overlooked Treasures: CSA Discovery Guides

Magazine article Online

Overlooked Treasures: CSA Discovery Guides

Article excerpt

When librarians and information professionals consider premium content providers, the question of money soon emerges. On professional discussion lists, they decry the increased costs of databases from companies such as Elsevier, Thomson, and others. The vitriol and acrimony in some of these postings reflects reduced library budgets and the opinion that some vendors are too profit-minded and unwilling to work with library customers to reduce costs.

Premium content companies, stalwarts of the indexing and abstracting services that often predate the internet, have actually increased the range of their offerings over time. What's more, many offer a number of extras that are available to subscribers and nonsubscribers alike--most of the time for free. I call these "overlooked treasures."

I wonder how many readers of ONLINE know about all of these freebie services or take advantage of them. Sometimes, if you are not a subscriber to a service, you wouldn't even think of looking to it for research purposes--you'd assume that you would not have access. However, hidden treasures exist that may be available even if you are not a subscriber. Some products you may know, but others may be new favorites that you can use and pass on to others.


Take ProQuest, for example. This company, under various guises, has been around since the beginning of online. ProQuest is one of the operating companies of Cambridge Information Group (CIG; www.cambridgeinformationgroup .com), a family-owned management and investment firm primarily focused on education, research, and information services companies. Today's ProQuest resulted from CIG's purchase of ProQuest and its subsequent merger of ProQuest with Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA). ProQuest brands include CSA, UMI, Chadwyck-Healey, SIRS, eLibrary, Serials Solutions, Ulrichs, RefWorks, COS, Dialog, and Bowker.

If you are a ProQuest subscriber, chances are that you log on to the system through, but take a look at the CSA website and you'll see a rebranding going on (, with the ProQuest logo now presented prominently in the upper left of the homepage. Incidentally, Dialog ( is sporting a new tag line, "Authoritative answers enriched by ProQuest."

Not a subscriber to CSA, Dialog, or ProQuest? There is at least one product that is available to you for free: Discovery Guides. Go to the CSA website and click on the tab for Discovery Guides. I'm not sure why CSA never publicized this product, but every student and researcher I've turned on to the service has thanked me profusely.



Discovery Guides "brief you in the basics of a subject and offer recent insights, while providing the technological tools to enhance your understanding," according to the CSA website. They offer an authoritative guide to a relatively obscure topic. Recent topics include Diffuse Interstellar Bands: A Cosmic Mystery, Plugging Into the Future: Smart Grids, and Energy: Drilling Beneath the Surface of Our Energy Dilemma.


CSA indexes and abstracts journals in four subject areas: Arts & Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Technology. Discovery Guides reflect these subject areas. Most abstractors have degrees in the subjects they index. The Discovery Guides really highlight this in-house expertise. If a specific topic interests an abstractor, or one of them notes that more authors are concentrating on a particular subject in the journals they abstract, an abstractor can volunteer to create a Discovery Guide. …

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