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Last updated on August 22, 2000 | Nederlandse versie | Version française

WebSPIRS: SilverPlatter Information Retrieval System for the World Wide Web - version 4.01

WebSPIRS is a World Wide Web browser-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 "":

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. "240" or e-mail at "").

Two WebSPIRS versions are currently available: This text describes WebSPIRS 4.01. Click here for more information on WebSPIRS 3.1. 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.

New features of WebSPIRS version 4.01

Start up the system

When you surf towards the ITG Library ERL Database Server at
"" you will first encounter a "Welcome to WebSPIRS" screen. You can use the default user name ("guest") and password ("guest") and click on the <Login to WebSPIRS> 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. "240" or email "").

After logging in a "Select Databases" menu with all databases available (for your particular username/password combination) appears. To get a description of a database click on the <i> button after the menu item. 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 <Open Selected Databases> button at the top of the menu 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 screen layout differs from WinSPIRS, most of the options are also available in WebSPIRS. Shortcut function keys, however, cannot be used with WebSPIRS.

At the top of the main frame a survey of the selected databases (and a short description) can be obtained. In the righthand frame of the default screen, a number of buttons are displayed to get access at basic modules:

<Searches>: searching the database(s)

Once inside the database the retrieval page is displayed by default. You can now type search terms in the long data entry box near the top of the central frame. When you afterwards click on the <Start 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. The records themselves are
displayed immediately.

There are, of course, alternative ways of searching. With a mouse click you can change the default <Words anywhere> radio button at the top of the retrieval screen to <Title>, <Author> or <Subject> to limit the search to one of these field types. With the <Set Other Limits> button searches can be limited to other specific field contents like 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 already 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 search 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. When more than one database is selected the individual results for each database are listed and can be displayed separately by clicking on the underlined display message.

Other features:

The following retrieval aspects will be discussed:

Basic retrieval searching techniques

<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 <General Index> is presented, comprising most of the 'data' fields like "Title", "Author", "Publisher", "Keywords", "Abstract", etc. With the <Index:> 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

Searching for authors

Searching for journals names or abbreviations

Searching for keywords


<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:


Combining two search terms

Different search terms (or search sets) can be combined:

Combining more than two search terms or sets

Obviously, more than two terms can be combined.

As an alternative one can use the <Search Builder>, which offers a menu-driven step-by-step approach for more complex searches.

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" and "Publication year" are represented on the "Limit Your Search" screen by a selection box per limit field. After selection click on the <Set Limits> button, and subsequently on <Start Search>.

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 Records>: viewing records and evaluating search results

<Print> records

This procedure differs substantially from the WinSPIRS printing process:

<Save>: downloading records to disk(ette)

This is very much like printing records. As such it also differs substantially from the WinSPIRS downloading process:

Alternative: <E-mail> records; (to yourself or somebody else). This closely resembles the <Save> procedure, but adds the specification of E-mail address and subject label [currently inactivated].

Two remarks concerning floppy disks or diskettes

Changing 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