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RESEARCH FORUM: BIOSIS Previews and psychological research

Bonnie, Gratch, editor

By Bob Perdue Science Reference Librarian University of West Florida

and Chris Piotrowski Adjunct Professor of Psychology University of West Florida

The literature in psychology is replete with references to the advantages of multi-database searching in conjunction with PsycINFO.1 Whereas PsycINFO and PsycALERT are the databases of choice for psychology researchers, many other files have been shown to be highly relevant for information retrieval in the behavioral sciresearch related to psychology.

The BIOSIS Previews database provides access to a wealth of behavioral literature as a result of indexing over 9,000 source journals as well as numerous monographs, books, and theses. In addition to the inclusion of many multi-disciplinary biomedical sources, more than 450 journals devoted exclusively to psychology and psychiatry are also indexed. The database now contains more than 6 million records dating back to 1969.3 Obviously, a file of this size and scope offers the psychological researcher a large potential pool of relevant scholarly information.

As part of a larger national survey conducted in the fall of 1988, the authors asked database searchers whether they access BIOSIS for topics in psychology. The sample included psychology database searchers from an average of four institutions in higher education in each state and the District of Columbia. Out of 200 survey Questionnaires, 130 were returned for a response rate of 65%. A comments section afforded respondents an opportunity to explain their use or lack of use of BIOSIS. This data provided further insights into factors affecting BIOSIS Previews usage for topics in psychology.

The results of our survey indicated that 24% of our respondents had used BIOSIS for psychologyrelated topics, while 76% had not. However, several interesting observations were noted from the comments section. For example, online searchers use BIOSIS primarily for literature in animal behavior or where animals were designated as subjects. Research dealing with physiology, psychobiology, and neurotransmitters was also mentioned. Several respondents indicated that BIOSIS was informative in investigations on pharmaceuticals, effects of medications or drugs, as well as healthrelated issues. Interestingly, many respondents indicated that they were not aware that BIOSIS was a useful source for psychological topics.

Our data indicate that many psychology database searchers (over 75%) many be unaware of the potential usefulness of BIOSIS as an adjunct to literature searching in the behavioral sciences. Although some respondents indicated they used BIOSIS for studies involving animal experiments, recent literature does suggest its usefulness to a wide range of applications in the field of psychology. However, the relatively higher cost of accessing BIOSIS in relation to other useful files, such as Medline or ERIC, may mitigate against its use.

The relatively low use of BIOSIS for psychology research may also be a reflection of the lack of marketing and availability of basic information on its potential usefulness to behavioral science librarians. Specialized workshops, professional publications, and commentary in Bio Search could be an effective method of promoting its value to researchers pursuing topics in psychology. BIOSIS would thus attain a higher visibility among endusers.

Notes

  1. Chris Piotrowski and Bob Perdue, “Multi-Database Searching in Forensic Psychology,” Forensic Reports 1 (1988): 55-63; Linda K. Lewis, “Bibliographic Computerized Searching in Psychology,” Teaching of Psychology 13 (February 1986): 38-40; and Alice A. Brand, “Searching Multiple Indexes and Data Bases in the Behavioral Sciences: Which and How Many?” Behavioral and Social Sciences Librarian 1 (1979): 105-12. ences—including BIOSIS Previews.2 Although the potential usefulness of BIOSIS has been documented for the behavioral researcher, no studies have surveyed the extent of its present use in
  2. Bob Perdue, “BIOSIS Previews: Implications for Research on Behavioral Medicine,” Medical Reference Services Quarterly 7 (1988): 57-62; Nancy G. Bruce and Ann L. Farren, “Searching BIOSIS Previews in the Health Care Setting,” Medical Reference Services Quarterly 6 (1987): 17-37; Bob Perdue, “Personality Assessment Online Literature Retrieval Strategies,” Forensic Reports 1 (1988): 259-66; Larry S. Perry and Richard H. Dana, “Macroconceptual Analysis of Psychological Literature: Online Computer Search Systems,” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 16 (1985): 354-62.
  3. DIALOG Information Services, DIALOG Database Bluesheets (Palo Alto, Calif.: DIALOG Information Services, 1988).
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