Among the New Words/Nexis

Jim Rader jrader at M-W.COM
Wed May 19 10:39:56 UTC 1999

I was unaware that there was such a substantial difference between
using Nexis via a Web interface (which is apparently the way it's
done at academic libraries) and using it directly, which (I think) is
the way we use it here.  Nexis searching is clumsy compared to
hunting with the major Web search engines, but it is possible to
search the entire Nexis "Papers" and "Mags" databases with a single
query, which summons every newspaper from Podunk, U.S.A., to
Singapore.  It's also possible to get to the earliest of, say, 500
citations simply by entering "500," pulling up the earliest cite, and
then returning to the "cite" view option, which gets you to the end
of the list (there's probably a much more elegant way to do this, but
my personal search methodology, like my approach to theoretical
linguistics, has always been brute force).  If searches were as
clumsy as Wayne describes, I doubt that I would ever bother with it.
As it is, the big problem here is our user limit--I sometimes have to
try all day in order to get on.

Jim Rader

> Fred and I have had some private exchanges about Lexis-Nexis in the last
> month or so, and his wish to see the database used by ATNW in a thorough
> way is not new to me.  (Indeed, I expected that Fred would have ante-dated
> Barry's ante-datings by the time I got into the office this morning.)
> Since last fall, my students and I have begun using Lexis-Nexis on an ad
> hoc basis.  We work against deadlines, so time is a genuine problem for us
> in the use of Lexis.
> We find Lexis-Nexis frustrating on many accounts.  For one thing, we cannot
> always find terms we have on Lexis and get zero hits.  Contributors send us
> clippings from sources not always covered by Lexis.  The time to find out
> that something is not on Lexis is then wasted time.
> The most frustrating problems have to do with the organzation of Lexis in
> the form that we have it.  We cannot do a global search.  Consequently, we
> have to search in all available categories (major newspapers, regional
> newspapers [broken down by regions], magazines, etc.).  The time involved
> in waiting for the search results in each category can be substantial on
> slow Web days.  The other problem is even more time-consuming.  If you find
> a term with say 500 hits, the only way to get to the earliest citation is
> download all of the hits in groups of 25 at a time, starting with the most
> recent.  The other day I just plain got frustrated and gave up before I
> ever got close to the earliest.  I was more worried anyway about what the
> term meant than what the earliest citation was.
> But we are about to start work on a box of sports terms for spring 2000.
> Our plan is to expend some patience with Lexis and see what it can do.
> Readers will just have to be patient with us in the meantime.
> By the way, after some impressive demonstrations of JSTOR on ADS-L, I asked
> our librarian about our chances of getting that database on our system.  He
> said that there had been some discussion of doing so but that the price was
> prohibitive.  The start-up fee was $30,000.  The annual maintenance fee was
> $4,000.
> Wayne Glowka

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