A Relevancy Search for Data on Information Literacy and Social Media

In this issue's search example, we conduct a search for data on information literacy and social media.


In this search we look at an issue that we hope will resonate with our readers. Librarians are increasingly adopting Web 2.0 (and beyond) technologies and social media to provide library instruction and information literacy training. What information is there in the PsycINFO database on the subject?

Build Your Search in PsycINFO Using the Relevancy Sort on APA PsycNET

APA PsycNET has recently added a Relevancy sort option. To begin our search, let's look at how the Relevance option works.

You access it from the Sort By area:

Screen shot of APA PsycNET Relevancy sort option


The Relevance process is this: first, initial selection is carried out based purely on the user's search. Once that is done, the selected records are given a relevance score that determines the order of the results. That relevance score is determined on the basis of terms' presence in the Title (document title) and Index Terms fields, which are given the greatest weight; then by keywords, author, and abstract, in that order. There is also a small weight given to the presence of the term anywhere in the record.

Boosting factors are also used, such as the presence of a term in a short field, thus a search for literacy weights "The Uses of Digital Literacy" more than "The Role of Literacy, Occupation and Income in Dementia Prevention: The São Paulo Aging and Health Study." This is done on the assumption that the former is likely to be more specifically focused on the topic. Finally, there is a boost for recency, or "freshness," which means that among items with similar scores, those that are more recent will appear higher in the list.

Let's do the search using two of the richer features available in APA PsycNET, Term Finder and the Classification Codes.

A nice feature of the APA PsycNET platform is that it makes access to the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms prominent with the Term Finder tab.

Screen shot of APA PsycNET Term Finder feature

The thesaurus allows three ways to search: alphabetically, with a rotated index, and hierarchically.

We can search for both of our major concepts. First for literacy:

Screen shot of Thesaurus search for term literacy


Among the results is the specific term we were looking for.

Screen shot of Thesaurus search for the term literacy


We'll take a closer look at the term. In this instance, the term was recently added, in 2007, and there are no broader or narrower terms. There are however related terms that may be relevant to the search.

Screen shot of Thesaurus record for the term Information Literacy


By expanding the related term records, choosing additional terms, and clicking the search button with the default Or Boolean, we've created a search for one prong of our topic.

To create the second prong, we must repeat the process in the next row:

Screen shot of repeating a row in an APA PsycNET search

Clear the search terms box.

Screen shot of clearing terms from the Thesaurus search box


We now try searching the Thesaurus with our second search concept: Web 2.0 OR "social media."

This time, we aren't able to find the specific term we were looking for.

Screen shot of missing terms for web 2.0 or social media terms


However, there do seem to be a number of related terms that would be useful, and so we add them to the Thesaurus search box.

Screen shot of Thesaurus terms related to social networking


This adds the index terms to the search. But if we still want to include the terms "Web 2.0" and "social media" in our search, we simply add them to the end of the search string and change index terms on the drop-down menu to keywords; thus, we include both the power of the controlled language and the flexibility of specific keywords.

Screen shot of addiing keywords to search


Finally, we add as a limit a range of classification codes that will restrict the results to research classified as being primarily about education. Go to the "Look for" section and access classification code. Scroll through the categories until you find relevant codes.

Screen shot of adding Classification Codes to search


Here is the final search.

Screen shot of final search with all elements included


And we retrieve 43 Relevance-sorted results.

Here are the top results.

Screen shot of of top search results