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Tips & Tricks
How Randy Reichardt, engineering librarian at the University of Alberta, teaches his students how to use the Compendex controlled vocabulary.
As an engineering librarian, I make good use of Compendex on a regular basis with the engineering students, researchers, and faculty at the University of Alberta. I teach library and research skills in a number of design engineering courses, and always include Compendex in my lectures. Typically, I choose a topic of interest to the course, and demonstrate how to make best use of Compendex to search for relevant citations. My preference is to take advantage of the Controlled Vocabulary (CV) when building a search. In doing so, this helps narrow the search so that the user can find the most important articles, papers and reports in the shortest amount of time.
In my lectures, I begin by searching Compendex using appropriate keywords and/or phrases, and when the first results appear, I move down the screen to the Controlled Vocabulary. I take the time to explain how CV terms are assigned to a record, and why they are used – to allow for consistent indexing across the database and to help group together citations of similar importance. (If a relevant CV term or phrase isn’t found, I move to the bottom of the screen, to show the students how to enter a search term themselves.)
My experience has been that the design engineering students appreciate learning how to use CV in their searches on Compendex, for the reasons mentioned earlier. I also demonstrate how to use CV when consulting with individual graduate students and faculty.
Researchers, especially undergraduate students, often begin searches with Google or Google Scholar. In doing so, they are missing the deeper indexing functionality of Compendex, along with various options to save or download the results. For example, a search run on “mars rover” combined with the CV term, “Algorithms”, returns 126 records on Compendex, from 1985-present. The same search run on Google Scholar returns twenty-three times as many hits. The researcher is better served reviewing the 126 records with deeper indexing, knowing that each citation has “Algorithms” assigned as a CV term:
If you have yet to try using Controlled Vocabulary in your Compendex searching, give it a try. You may be surprised at the results, and find yourself changing how you run Compendex searches from that point forward.
Randy Reichardt | Research Services Librarian Engineering | Science & Technology Library | University of Alberta Libraries
A trick about Compendex controlled vocabulary by Peter Zuber, Brigham Young University
Because Compendex indexes a huge amount of content, it uses a “controlled vocabulary” to maximize subject indexing. This means that subject areas are assigned specific terminologies. Once you know the controlled term, you get more relevant results.
You can certainly search Compendex using any subject terms you like, but you’ll get more results that are relevant if you use controlled terms. You discover the controlled term for any given subject by clicking on the Thesaurus tab, found in the upper right hand side of the “Engineering Village” search page. In that simple search box, just type your best guess of what you feel is the correct subject term and it will tell you or lead you to their controlled term equivalent.
Many times you’ll find that your term and the Compendex term are identical, and sometimes they’re not. For example, let’s say we’re searching for articles about “smart home” technologies. You know, running your home using microprocessors/PC’s to control temperature, lighting, etc. If you type in “smart home” in the Thesaurus and hit “Submit”, you’ll get a list of terms, with some of them italicized, some in normal font. Normal font means the term being shown is a controlled term. Italics means the term is not a controlled term.
Do any normal font terms match up with your interpretation of “smart home”? Probably not, but some italicized terms do, like “smart houses.” Since this is italicized, it means it’s not a controlled term. However, in this list, it becomes an entry point that directs you to the controlled term. So, click on “smart houses.” You’ll see that the term suggested by Compendex is “intelligent buildings.” This is the controlled term. This also tells you that perhaps you should use the term “intelligent buildings” somewhere in your paper to aid in its discovery by other researchers!
So, before you start a search, enter a bunch of subject terms and discover the controlled term. Look over these terms to see if you find one that best matches your intent. Again, if they’re italicized, “click it” to discover controlled versions.
Engineering, Technology, & Computer Science Librarian
Brigham Young University