VII.4 Finding Research Literature on Autism

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Rex Robison

Rex Robison is an information scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Library in Bethesda, Maryland. Robison’s work addresses the following problem: while scientific literature is growing exponentially, and electronic databases make it easier for researchers to find the relevant literature, many researchers continue to use just one database. This map indicates what is potentially missed by the single-database approach when applied to a particular topic—in this case, the developmental disorder of autism. Four bibliographic databases were searched, and each retrieved publication was tagged and colored according to which databases contained it. While many publications are held by multiple databases, no single database has all the literature on a topic. Each database is unique in terms of journals included, years covered, and publication types. The differences are more pronounced with databases that go beyond journal articles to include conference proceedings, dissertations, and books. Moreover, even if the databases include the same contents, the search tools for each database perform differently, such as whether they automatically look for variants of the user's search terms. For a comprehensive search, multiple databases that complement each other's strengths need to be used.


Robison, Rex. 2009. Finding Research Literature on Autism. Courtesy of National Institutes of Health Library. In “7th Iteration (2011): Science Maps as Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Michael J. Stamper.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.