Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine

The Library

ITG library home page Books Journals Electronic journals Databases WebSPIRS Internet links ITG home page
Last updated on January 20, 2004 | (verkorte) Nederlandse versie | Version (abrégée) française

WebSPIRS: SilverPlatter Information Retrieval System for the World Wide Web - version 3.1

WebSPIRS is a World Wide Web-based retrieval software for databases distributed by the SilverPlatter company.

With WebSPIRS you can access the following databases on the ERL Server of the ITG Library at "http://lib.itg.be":

Remember that the default username "guest" will give access to the catalogs and databases produced by the ITG Library only. In order to get access to all the databases available from the ITG Library ERL Server you need to use other username/password combinations reserved for ITG staff members only (for more information, call the library at tel. "241" or e-mail at "bib@itg.be").


Two WebSPIRS versions are currently available: This text describes WebSPIRS 3.1. Click here for more information on WebSPIRS 4.01. Click on Accessing the ITG Library ERL Database Server for more information on technical aspects of the ITG network configuration.


The following aspects of database searching will be discussed:

In this short manual only the basic functionalities of the WebSPIRS software are dealt with. To obtain more extensive information, consult the <Help> module.

Generally the Medline database will be used as an example. The other databases feature a number of structural (e.g. other field labels) or functional (e.g. the absence of a thesaurus) differences.


Start up the system

When you surf towards the ITG Library ERL Database Server at
"http://lib.itg.be/scripts/webspirs.cmd" you will first encounter a "Login:" screen. You can use the default User name ("guest") and Password ("guest") and click on the <Login> button. This will give you access to a limited number of databases (i.e. those without licence limitations). In order to get access to all the databases available from the ITG Library ERL Database Server you need to use other username/password combinations, known to ITG staff members only (for information call the library at tel. 241 or email 'bib@itg.be').

After logging in a menu with all databases available (for your specific username/password combination) appears. Most databases are represented by a single menu item, but some consist of two (VetCD) or more (Medline) sections. All database(section)s can be searched individually as well as in any combination. Select the database(section)s of your choice by clicking on the check boxes in front of the menu items. When your selection is complete click on the <Search> button at the top or bottom of the "Database Selection" page.


Basic commands and help functions


The basic WebSPIRS commands are easy to use. You need only a few commands to successfully search the databases, display and print bibliographic references. Most actions are fairly obvious, as they are represented on the screen by (radio) buttons, selection boxes or data entry boxes.

Although the layout differs from WinSPIRS, most of the options are also available in WebSPIRS. Shortcut function keys, however, cannot be used. At the top and the bottom of most pages, a number of buttons are displayed to get access at basic modules:

Under these buttons the names of the selected databases are displayed.


<Search>: searching the database(s)

Once inside the database the retrieval page (which can consist of several screens) is displayed. You can now type search terms in the long data entry box in the centre of the first screen. When you afterwards click on the <Search> button, the system will inform you in how many records this term occurs in the database(s), irrespective of the field(s) it is found in. To view the records themselves you need to click on the <Display Records> button.

There are, of course, alternative ways of searching. With a mouse click you can change the default <Words Anywhere> radio button to <Title>, <Author> or <Subject> to limit the search to one of these field types. In the same way searches can also be limited to specific languages and publication years (or ranges of years). While these options are useful for occasional searchers, experienced users may get faster results by typing all necessary operators and field codes directly into the data entry box. Most commands available in WinSPIRS can also be used in WebSPIRS. This, of course, implies that you know the right syntax and codes. If you don't, the menus and buttons will guide you through your retrieval session, but it may take a little longer as you will need to go through a larger number of screens.

Each request constitutes a separate set, indicated by the symbol "#". These sets are kept until the end of the session and can be recuperated afterwards to make combinations. A survey of sets created during the current session can be viewed on the lower part of the retrieval page. Generally, a link to this <Search History> is available near the top of retrieval page. The active search term is also displayed near the top of the "Search" page.

The following aspects will be discussed:

Basic retrieval searching techniques

  • The system retrieves the search terms literally, as they are typed, but does not distinguish between lower and upper case.

  • Don't use diacritics in your search, as these will not be interpreted correctly. Use the corresponding standard characters instead: "e" instead of "è", "é", "ë" or "ê"; "a" instead of "à", "â", "å" or "ä"; etc.

  • Truncation: WebSPIRS does not feature automatic truncation. Use the symbol "*" if you wish to apply truncation. E.g. "schistosom*" finds "schistosoma", "schistosoma-haematobium", "schistosoma-japonica", "schistosoma-mansoni", "schistosomiases", "schistosomiasis", "schistosomose", etc.
    Take care: using truncation with short strings or popular stems can lengthen retrieval times substantially, as a great number of words need then to be combined. The more specific a search formulation, the faster results are found.

  • Masking: question marks ("?") can be used to replace one or zero characters within a word. In this way "h?ematology" retrieves both "hematology" and "haematology".

  • Remember that in all our databases only English keywords are used. E.g. "tuberculosis" instead of "tuberculose". The same goes for all software elements: commands, prepositions and operators. Currently no other language versions of WebSPIRS are available.

<Index>: searching via alphabetical index

The system displays an alphabetical list of indexed terms (starting from the string you typed into the "Term" data entry box), and indicates in how many records each term is used within the database ("hits"). Such indexes have the advantage that your attention is automatically drawn to different ways of spelling or alphabetically closely related alternatives.

By default the "Free Text" <Index> is presented, comprising most of the 'data' fields like "Title", "Author", "Publisher", "Keywords", "Abstract", etc. With the <Field> entry box alternative field-specific indexes can be accessed (e.g. "Language", "Publication year", "Journal name", "Country of publication", etc. From these index-extracts terms can be selected to use for actual searching by simply clicking on them. Take care: different databases may feature different selections of field-specific indexes.

Field-specific retrieval

  • Retrieval can be limited to specific fields, using the preposition "IN" plus the field code.
    • E.g. "hepatitis IN TI" restricts the occurences of the word "hepatitis" to the title field only.
    • E.g. "malaria IN MESH" restricts the occurences of the word "malaria" to the keywords field only.

  • Use the <Index> module for a database specific list of fields and their letter codes. Use these letter codes to specify fields, or select index terms directly.

Searching for authors

  • The easiest way to search for specific author names is to type them in the data entry box and to select the <Author> radio button.

  • In command mode the same can be done as follows: Add the preposition "IN" and the field code "AU" (Author) to the search term. E.g. "finegold IN AU".
    Generally author names consist of last name and one or more initials, both groups separated by a hyphen ("-"). E.g. "Harrison-TWA". Author names with more elements have more than one hyphen. E.g. "Van-der-Stuyft-P" or "Garcia-Lopez-C".

  • As authors are also part of the "Free Text Fields" group, they will normally be retrieved even without specifying the "Author" field. However, it may be useful to specify this field in order to avoid irrelevant fields (e.g. a personal name mentioned in the title or the abstract).

  • Use the alphabetic <Field: AU - Author(s)> index. This may draw your attention to unexpected initials variations. No matter how certain you may be of an author's name, many are not true to one format. Chances are that "Robert A. Smith" has published the paper you are looking for as "Smith-R" or "Smith-RAT". Don't forget to use the hyphens.

  • During (full record) display, author names will be in blue color and underlined. As such, they are hyperlinked and can automatically be added to the searches by simply clicking on them. Unfortunately, this handy feature may not work if accents or other diacritics are involved.

Searching for journals names or abbreviations

  • Add the preposition "IN" and the field codes "JN", "JA" or "SO" (Source) to the search term. E.g. "N-Engl-J-Med IN SO".

    Take care: different databases may use different codes and field names for journal names and abbreviations. One of the following should give satisfying results:

    • JN: Journal name.
    • JA: Journal abbreviation (Index Medicus style; this is not a separate field in Medline).
    • SO: Source = Journal abbreviation + Year of publication + Volume + Issue + Pages cited.

  • Use the alphabetic <Field: JN - Journal name> or <Field: JA - Journal abbreviation> index. Don't forget to use the hyphens. Again, this may draw your attention to unexpected formats. One advantage of the Medline database is that when a specific journal is available in the local library, this is indicated explicitly in the bibliographic record. The CAB and ITG Library databases use this helpful feature only partially.

  • During (full record) display, journal names will be in blue color and underlined. As such, they are hyperlinked and can automatically be added to the searches by simply clicking on them. Unfortunately, this handy feature may not work if accents or other diacritics are involved.

Searching for keywords

  • The easiest way to search for words defining a subject is to type them in the data entry box and to select the <Subject> radio button (though this tends to give broader results than using standardized keywords, e.g. also including title and abstract words).

  • In command mode standardized keywords can be searched as follows: add the preposition "IN" and the database-specific subject field-code to the search term:
    • Medline: use MESH (MEdical Subject Headings). E.g. "malaria IN MESH".
      You can also differentiate between two types of MESH terms:
      • MJME: Major MESH: the keyword is central to the article's content.
      • MIME: Minor MESH: the keyword is not central to the article's content.
    • CAB Health and VetCD: use SU(bject headings), DE(escriptors), O(rganism) D(escriptors) or GE(ographic) names. E.g. "schistosomiasis IN DE", "mali IN GE".
    • ITG Library databases: use KW (Keywords). E.g. "tuberculosis IN KW".

  • During display, keywords will be in blue color and underlined. As such, they are hyperlinked and can automatically be added to the searches by simply clicking on them.

Attention:

<Thesaurus>: using the hierarchical keyword structure [Medline]:

The thesaurus is a controlled hierarchical structure defining the keywords and their mutual relations. Accessing the thesaurus is a step by step procedure:
  • After typing a term in the long data entry box and clicking on the <Jump> button, the system first displays an alphabetical list of permuted keywords, starting with the thesaurus item closest to the term you entered. At this stage automatic truncation and mapping are active.

  • From this list one can switch to the hierarchical keyword structure by just clicking on the terms. The next screen displays extensive information about the keywords, their history and related terms ("More Specific (narrower) Terms" and "More General (broader) Terms"). Again, one can navigate to higher or lower levels by just clicking on them.

  • When search terms feature one or more narrower terms (subdivisions) one can choose to retrieve only this individual search term (<Search>) or to retrieve both the search term and all hierarchically lower level items (<Explode>). E.g. "explode africa, western" = "africa, western + benin + burkina faso + cote d'ivoire + gambia + ghana + guinea + guinea-bissau + liberia + ... ", etc.

  • Select <Topical Subheadings>: e.g. "epidemiology", "drug therapy". Subheadings make the keywords far more specific, but using them increases the risk of missing articles which may also be relevant. Therefore it may be better to respect the <Use All Subheadings> default and afterwards limit the results while viewing the whole set (use the check boxes to select individual records) or by combining it with additional keywords.

Attention:

  • Individual thesaurus terms may have been recently adopted. Using them with older database sections may therefore fail to yield results. Always check the thesaurus term history and definition.

  • Only the Medline thesaurus is described here. The thesauri of the CAB databases has comparable features, but there are differences. The ITG Library databases do not feature a thesaurus.

  • When different databases are selected, the <Thesaurus> button may be inactivated, even if several of the databases do have a thesaurus module.

Combining two search terms

Different search terms (or search sets) can be combined:
  • "AND": section: both term1 and term2. E.g. "aids AND tuberculosis".

  • "OR": union: term1 or term2 or both term1 and term2. E.g. "rwanda OR burundi".

  • "NOT": exclusion: term1 but not term2. E.g. "mycobacterium NOT tuberculosis"

  • The following are special cases of the 'AND' operator, specifying the distance between both terms:
    • "WITH": term1 and term2 appear within the same field.
    • "NEAR": term1 and term2 appear within the same sentence.
    • "NEAR3": term1 and term2 appear within the same sentence, but with a maximum of 3 words apart. Obviously, other numbers can be specified, e.g. 'NEAR2", "NEAR5", etc.
    • No operator is used: when 2 or more terms are entered without an operator (e.g. "viral diseases"), the system not only looks for references in which both words appear (cf. "AND"), but also verifies whether they appear one immediately after the other, irrespective of internal order. This relation is much closer than " AND" and equivalent to "NEAR2".
    Remember that search terms and operators can be typed in both upper and lower case!

Combining more than two search terms or sets

Obviously, more than two terms can be combined.
  • Be sure to use brackets to specify the correct relationships. The following search requests give quite different results, the second being the most sensible.
    • "malaria OR cholera AND rwanda OR burundi"
    • "(malaria OR cholera) AND (rwanda OR burundi)"
    • "malaria OR (cholera AND rwanda) OR burundi"

  • Previously defined sets can also be combined. Be sure to include the "#" symbols (use the <Alt Gr> key), otherwise the cardinal number itself is searched in the database, not the set with that number. E.g. "(#1 OR #6) AND (#3 OR #5)"

Limiting retrieval results

This function is similar to the specification of fields: you limit the search to certain "values". Like the 'ordinary' fields "Title", "Author" and "Subject", the 'limit' fields, "Language" (not for all databases!) and "Publication Year" are represented on the retrieval screen by check boxes or data entry boxes. In WebSPIRS 4.01 more extensive menu-driven possibilities are offered.

Using the command mode these (and other) limit-field specifications can be typed into the data entry box. The field codes can be entered before as well as after the search terms. Examples:

Limit to publication years

Limit to language of publication

Limit to publication type

Other useful Medline limit fields


Display: viewing records and evaluating search results


<Print> records

This procedure differs substantiallty from the WinSPIRS printing process:
  • After selecting the records, click on the <Print...> button on the WebSPIRS page (not the Web browser's <Print> button).
  • Select the options offered: change display, include search histories, include record numbers, etc. [sorting records and selecting only locally held titles are apparently only available in display mode, and should be applied before printing.]
  • Click the <Display for print> button: this will give you a screen preview of the eventual outprint.
  • Print this preview with the <Print> command of your Web browser.


<Save>: downloading records to disk(ette)

This is very much like printing records. As such it also differs from the WinSPIRS downloading process:
  • After selecting the records, click on the <Save...> button.
  • Select the options offered: change display, include search histories; include record numbers, etc. [sorting records and selecting only locally held titles are apparently only available in display mode, and should be applied before downloading.]
  • Click the <Save records> button.
  • Specify filename and path.

Two remarks concerning floppy disks or diskettes

  • 3.5" diskettes are available at the counter at 20 Bf each. The library, however, is not a computer shop. This offer is intended only to allow users, who have no diskettes with them while visiting the library, to download information from the databases.

  • When downloading, do not use diskettes containing valuable or unique information: diskettes occasionally get damaged during downloading, resulting in loss of data.


Changing databases

  • To change databases or sections: click on the <Database> button, after which the database menu will reappear. Select one or more databases or sections by clicking on the checkboxes in front of them. When your selection is complete click on the <Search> button at the top or bottom of the "Database Selection" page.
    Take care: if you don't unmark previously selected databases, these will remain part of the new database selection.

  • As long as one does not leave the system, search formulations used on previous sections or databases can be used. Take care: search sets refering to the thesaurus may not always function properly with other sections or databases.


Leaving the system

To quit the system, please click on the <Logout> button and close the active Web browser window.


Related pages:
What are bibliographic records and databases? | International databases subscribed to by the ITG library | Electronic catalogs of the ITG library collections | Databases produced by the ITG library | Page author: Dirk Schoonbaert
ITG library home page Books Journals Electronic journals Databases WebSPIRS Internet links ITG home page