Doing Research at the Library of Congress
VI. Related Record Searches
"Related record" searching is another capability of the Web
of Science database.
To do a related record search, you must first enter the database through
either author or keyword searches. Once you have found one or more relevant
records via these means, if you then click on the "related records"
button the database will show you any other articles in the file that have
footnotes in common with your starting-point article. These will not
articles that cite your starting point (as in a citation search); rather,
they will usually be articles written entirely independently of your initial
source, which nevertheless have one or more footnotes in common with
it. Articles that have shared footnotes, again, are usually "in the same ballpark"
in terms of subject focus. Such articles can be either later than, simultaneous
to, or earlier in date than the starting-point source. The most
important point about related records turned up by such searches is that
articles with shared footnotes--which therefore are usually talking about
the same subject--may use title (or abstract) keywords for the topic that
are entirely different from those used by your initial article.
For example, one researcher interested in "the economics of antiquities
looting" found one relevant article that used these keywords in its title; but
a related record search, starting from that article, turned up others with
titles such as:
"Good Faith Purchasers of Stolen Art"
"Protection of Cultural Property"
"Illicit Trade in Art"
"Statistics, Damned Statistics, and the Antiquities Trade"
None of these article titles had keywords that he thought of in advance; but
they were found nonetheless because related record searching circumvents
keywords and finds articles with shared footnotes instead.
Similarly, another student was looking for articles on "statement analysis,"
having to do with the determination of signs of deception in written
or oral communications. A keyword search on this phrase led to a good
starting-point article; but then a related record search turned up other
articles with titles such as:
"Assessment of the Credibility of Adult’s Statements"
"Language of Deceit"
Again, related record searching turned up articles whose title keywords
could not be specified in advance.
The traditional way to get around keyword variants is via controlled vocabulary
subject heading searches; but the newer methods of citation searching
and related record searching now provide additional ways to get around
the same problem.
Note that "related record" searching in the Web of Science database
is not the same
as "related subjects" searching that can be done in many (not all) databases
in the FirstSearch system, another commercial subscription service. A large
number of files in the latter system use controlled subject headings, and
the "related subjects" feature is a very useful way to find them. When searching
a database such as Readers Guide Abstracts by the keyword phrase "space aliens,"
for example, you will get many hits. Once you have the list of results retrieved
via keywords, you can then click on the "Related Subjects" button near the
top of the screen, and the system will show you a ranked list of the subject
headings that have been attached to the keyword records you've found.
These will be controlled terms such as Aliens (Visitors from space), UFOs,
Roswell (N. M.), and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial
"related subjects" feature is thus, essentially, a way to look quickly at all
of the subject headings that appear in the many articles' descriptor fields
(which, in journal article databases, are analogous to the subject tracings
field in the online book catalog).
Competition among database suppliers is leading other companies to offer
related record searching, as in the Web of Science file, in their databases,
Cambridge Scientific Abstracts and EBSCOhost databases now have this
feature. Others will undoubtedly follow.