Search expansion makes finding related resources easier

Bridget Dauer /

Much of discovery begins with an idea of what topics and resources are desired for research. But in many cases, researchers don’t know what they don’t know. This is where a smart discovery system can save the day.

In WorldCat Discovery, we’ve been focusing on making discovery an enjoyable and serendipitous journey toward knowledge. This requires working with data in innovative ways to surface not only resources the user thinks she/he wants, but also resources that she/he didn’t understand were related (and therefore potentially beneficial). WorldCat Discovery users have access to more than 4 billion resources through WorldCat and a robust central index of content. To help make sense of such a massive amount of data, we’re building intuitive solutions that promote efficient, effective, and delightful discovery experiences.

In April we released an enhancement that enables searching across authority files—including MeSH, LCSH, RVM, and others—to find relevant search terms, even when using related, variant, or deprecated search terms. While librarians have been adding authority file data for many years, this enhancement is the first to purposefully and effectively leverage that information to add value to search results.

Say, for example, a pre-med student is developing a report on heart attack trends. Naturally, the student begins with a search for “heart attack”. When the search expansion feature is enabled, the user will also see results that include “myocardial infarction”. This simple change in search parameters can unlock a wealth of relevant resources.

In keeping with customization through configuration, WorldCat Discovery libraries can enable this enhancement is Service Configuration. Within the search expansion settings, users can also select which authority files to utilize when expanding users’ queries, and researchers also have the ability to enable/disable the feature directly in the user interface.

Community engagement has always been central to our efforts as a global cooperative. In the WorldCat Discovery Community, we have additional opportunities to share, discuss, and provide feedback, including a new, short survey regarding your experience with the search expansion enhancement. We thank you for your contributions to the WorldCat Discovery service and the OCLC cooperative!

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