blog: The Deep Web
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Introduction to Scirus

For this blog entry I am going to be writing a review on one of the Deep Web research tools we learned about last class called "Scirus". For those that have never heard of Scirus before it is a web search engine specializing scientific content. The website currently has roughly 450 million scientific pages listed, allowing researchers access to journals, scientists' personal pages, patent information, and other related areas.

First Thoughts

Being a new user to scirus myself I had several thoughts as I first entered their home webpage. The first thing that popped into my head was how clean-cut the homepage looked. It seemed really simple to use and things weren't jumping out at me from every direction. The homepage provided a nice short description of what the site was about as well as all the usual links you would expect to find on a search engine's homepage like company information, updates, and other such things. Although, I was yet to fully explore the Scirus search engine, I already was beginning to think that it was very up-to-date, well taken care of, and would provide to be useful.

The Search Engine

Given that Scirus is a search engine for science I decided to dedicate my first search for looking up information on green energy technologies.
The results of my first search can be found here. The first result listed was a link to sustainablebusiness.com, a company that devotes itself to providing news and networking opportunities that let green businesses grow. The second result sent me to investorideas.com, a website providing business ideas to small-cap companies. Investorideas.com clearly stresses green business ideas and technologies by offering many related rss feeds and podcasts. The third result there goes to an error page (not so good considering it was the 3rd result), and the fourth result links to another page from Oklahoma that specializes in providing renewable energy resources. I continued to scroll down the list of results and check out each website for relevancy and anything else interesting that I might find. Overall, I was very pleased with the results I got, bookmarking a few of the sites so I can go back and look at them in the future. This is the first biggest test that any good search engine must pass; returning results that are very relevant to the user's query. I feel as thought Scirus passed this initial test.

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Next, I'd like to talk about many of the additional features that Scirus provides with its searches. On the left side of the results page are a few boxes that give you more options to narrow your search down and really find what you are looking for. The first of these options lets you filter the content sources and file types of your results. If for example, you only want web pages that are coming from science and other journals, you can select this option, and also further narrow your search by picking exactly which journals you might want to look at. Similarly, you can have your results only be from preferred websites and those that have an established presence of reliability. As far as file type goes, you can make your results be strictly pdfs, Word documents, HTML documents, as well as others. Further down the left side is a box that gives a list of related search items. In case you didn't know what you really wanted to search for the first time, this box of related searches can either help you get on the right track, or just provide other areas related to your first search that might be of interest to you. I found these features of the website to be pretty useful as I spent nearly half an hour browsing sub-topics like wind energy, solar energy, and energy policies as they related to the government. The bottom of the search results page provided links to current news items relating to my query. Many of these news feeds has an RSS subscription option, which in some cases I signed up for.

After examining the general look of the results pages, I moved on to the advanced search options tab. Here, Scirus provides even more additional options for narrowing down searches and finding exactly what you are looking for. Thought a lot less popular and smaller in scale then Yahoo, Scirus still provides more ways to break down and refine a search. All of the search options include using syntax, dates or time periods, information types, file formats, content sources, and subject areas. I refined my initial search by looking only at articles in the subject area of Environmental Sciences. The search results for that page are listed here. Although I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for or what I wanted to find, the results of this search proved to be quite interesting and helpful in exploring my topic area.

Summary

Overall, I was very pleased with Scirus and my experience with its Web pages and search engine. Scirus offers many advanced search tools that provide a ton of flexibility when trying to find different types of information. I thought the search engine did a great job in terms of returning search results that were very relevant to my queries. I only hope that Scirus can continue to grow and add many more scientific resources to its search engine database. At this point in time, I think they have a very good set up, the only key will be if they can keep users involved and continue to expand their selection of data sources.

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