Learning Resources

Research Tool Aims To Expand the Definition of Search Query

A Boston-based nonprofit, the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence (ISCE), has launched a research tool, Epi-Search, designed to allow researchers to write queries of scholarly materials as long as 10,000 words. So, instead of using single keywords, students, for instance, can input entire articles, papers and book chapters to find more documents related to the subject.

The tool's algorithms are intended to take advantage of a document's context in order to find other materials that might be helpful. It can find documents that are like the document in the search and also display key concepts and terms from the query and present them in the form of word clouds.

According to ISCE representatives, Epi-Search can search the institute's own library of 5,000 books that have been read, skimmed or quoted over the last 10 years by staff members. However, it can also search other databases like Google Scholar, PhilPaper, MIT CogNet and CiteSeer.

There are several different ways college students can take advantage of Epi-Search if, for instance, they are writing a paper. They can simply take their free-form notes and submit them. The site would then recommend further reading materials and associated concepts or keywords.

They can submit a preliminary draft of a paper to find reference sources they could then cite. They can also submit the same draft to find other papers that are similar to theirs and could give them more ideas to enhance their own work.

According to a statement from ISCE, "Our goal is to give the user an Internet version of serendipitously browsing in a library stack."

The ISCE was founded in 1999 "to facilitate the conversation between academics and practitioners regarding the implications of complexity thinking for the management of organizations." Along with providing Epi-Search, it presents a number of annual events and publishes scholarly journals.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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