A significant improvement in WCL over our classic OPAC is the way in which search results are delivered. The search results screen resembles the design of online retailers such as Amazon.com, providing an intuitive place to begin sifting through works that relate to your research topic.
The improvements in WCL are more than merely aesthetic; they extend to the usefulness of the results themselves. Our classic OPAC would return results sorted in descending order by publication date and author. While this could be modified to return results by relevancy ranking or other sorting options, it is not the most intuitive way to display search results. Moreover, the relevancy rankings were sometimes suspect. For example, a search for 1 Peter sorted by rank in the classic OPAC returns as the top hit a work from 1641 entitled Two Looks over Lincolne. It’s not immediately evident what, if anything, this work has to do with 1 Peter. The first item that is clearly related to 1 Peter in our search results is ranked third in the list. When you run the same search on WCL, the first ten items are all obviously related to 1 Peter. Nine of them are commentaries on the epistle, and one of them is a monograph focusing on particular themes in 1 Peter. WCL also provides the flexibility to change the sorting method of your search results. You can sort by author, date of publication, or title as well as relevance. On the level of search results, WCL is a vast improvement over the classic OPAC.
The search results screen of WCL also helps you drill down into the search results to find exactly what you need. A search for 1 Peter returns over 3,700 items held at our library. How do you determine which items are useful and which ones are irrelevant? On the left-hand side of the search results are suggestions to further refine your search.
If your research involved determining how 1 Peter was presented in children’s literature, you could click on the link “Juvenile” under Audience to see the 24 items in that category. If you need to find journal articles, under Format you could click “Articles” to see the 304 articles your search found (many of which have full text available, but that’s for another blog entry). These suggestions are helpful when you are beginning with a broad topic and need to narrow it into something manageable. They’re also helpful to get an overview of the literature available. For example, you can quickly see what authors have written the greatest number of works on your subject, which could lead you to a new helpful source of inquiry previously unknown to you.
Two other items on the search results screen deserve mention. The first is the ability to save a search. For certain research projects you might run the same search several times, and WCL allows you to save searches to make it easier to re-run the exact same search multiple times. The second is the ability to create a list of items returned in your search results. I’ll talk about that more in an upcoming post. Note that both of these features require you to have a free WorldCat account so WCL can store your searches and lists for you.
If you haven’t had a chance to use WCL yet, test it out and let us know what you think! For feedback please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We trust these improvements will help you be more efficient and productive in your research tasks.