ILS604-70 Advanced Reference
Pamela R. Dennis
Unit V, Assignment 2 Meta vs. search engine
March 6, 2003
Since I am in the process of writing a series of articles on West Tennessee College, the forerunner of one of our universities in Jackson, Tennessee, I decided to see what was available on that topic. I chose Google as my search engine. In order to keep the text together, I typed the words West Tennessee College in quotations. I received 84 hits on 39 websites. Twenty-seven of the sites were directly related to the correct topic, while five referred to the University of West Tennessee College of Physicians and Surgeons and four referred to colleges in West Tennessee. Three sites, though about West Tennessee College, included blatantly erroneous information, and I plan to contact those webmasters to correct that information.
Being unfamiliar with most metasearch engines, I tried several. With ProFusion, I received 29 hits, most of which were included in the Google search, with four concerning West Tennessee Business College. Since I kept the words together with quotes (as suggested in the FAQ), I should not have received the hit, West Tennessee Business College. I liked the fact that I was given the search engine that was searched in parentheses. This feature would save me the time of searching those engines. I also tried Dogpile and learned that it searches the following: Google, Looksmart, Inktomi, Ask Jeeves, About, Overture, FindWhat, and FAST. I received the following results when I searched for West Tennessee College: Overture 5 hits, Dogpile Picks 2 hits, Google 84 hits (10 displayed), FAST 69 hits (10 displayed), Ask Jeeves 45 hits (10 displayed). I even found reference to a presentation that I had given myself on this topic a couple of years ago.
Search.com found 42 results, included sources, and could be sorted by source or relevance. The results were as follows: AltaVista 29 hits (10 displayed), Ask Jeeves 45 hits (10 displayed), Wisenut 24 hits (10 displayed), SurfPoint 557 hits (10 displayed). The SurfPoint hits were not relevant since the words were not kept together as a phrase.
Having read an article for this chapter entitled, Rating the Metasearch Engines: Its Time to Pay Some Well-Deserved Attention to These Helpful Resources by Peter Jasco (Information Today 18 [December 2001], 28-30), I became familiar with Vivisimo, which was my favorite metasearch engine because of its indexing feature as well as citations for resources searched. When I typed in west tennessee college Vivisimo found 55 documents and categorized them as follows:
Howell, Jackson (5)
College At Jackson (5)
Historical Society (3)
OSU, Carry Me Back (3)
Born Abt. (3)
United states (2)
Changed, American (2)
Degrees, The Bachelor Of Arts A
Surgery, Medicine (2)
Other Topics (8)
With the indexing feature, it is easy for the user to determine which hits are relevant. For example, I know that West Tennessee College did not have a medical program, and I learned from Google that there was a University of Tennessee College of Physicians and Surgeons. Therefore, there is no need to look at these hits, because they were not related. I do know that Howell Jackson (a Civil War general) attended the school, that the school is located in Jackson, that it is a precursor of Union University, that I have spoken to the West Tennessee Historical Society about the topic, that Jonathan Smith has written several books containing cemetery information about Jackson, that one of the presidents went on to found Oregon State University after serving at West Tennessee College, and that the school offered a Bachelor of Arts degree. Therefore, these would be the first topics I would examine. Most of the other topics were unrelated.
This was a great assignment in that it forced me to go beyond the usual Google search. In doing so, I found information on several websites that I would not have found otherwise. These metasearch engines provide a one stop shopping experience that saves time and effort in searching numerous separate databases. While some sites were related to West Tennessee schools in general, most were relevant to the topic. I found few links broken and have bookmarked Vivisimo and ProFusion for future use. I feel confident that they will provide me with many resources in addition to my favored search engine, Google.