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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Updated search capability

One of the new things we're releasing in February is an improved search on the ICPSR web site.  The change isn't in the way that people use the search; rather it is in how we build the index.

The ICPSR "study search" index has always used the rich set of metadata that our data managers create during the data curation process.  This contains the usual items one might expect to find in an index, such as the name of the researcher, the name of the study, subject terms and headings, etc.

Our new index uses this same rich metadata, but also makes use of the full-text available in documents such as codebooks and survey instruments.  Our preliminary findings have been very encouraging:  In some cases, studies that would have been hard or impossible to find with a "metadata only" search appear high in the search results with a more broad index.

For example, if you were to search using the terms "warfare" and "africa" in our current search, you would end up with this URL in your browser's address bar:

http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/studies?archive=ICPSR&q=warfare+africa

and three results.

However, with the new search, you will end up with over 30 results, including many studies that are in the World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers set.  You can take a sneak peak at the new capability by adding the string "&newSearch=true" to the end of the URL in the address bar.  For instance, to do the search above using the new index, use this URL:

http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/studies?archive=ICPSR&q=warfare+africa&newSearch=true

and see the difference.

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