Types of information systems

By the term ‘information system’ people usually understand only databases and they use these both terms as synonyms, but actually it includes lot wider range of data storage and usage. Nowadays information systems are widely used, so there is a quite a big chance you will have to deal with them sooner or later. If so, it is important to know what exactly they are. So let’s take a closer look at many types of information systems and usage of them.

Before computers became a part of everyday life, there was quite simple division of information systems. Basically that was divided into four sections or levels – transaction processing systems, management information systems, decision support systems and executive information systems. Usually these systems were displayed as a pyramid, because they were ordered by hierarchy. Nowadays this model doesn’t work anymore, because information systems has developed dramatically and there are many new types of information systems, that are being used lot more widely than those mentioned above.

One of the most popular and widely used information systems is web search engines. Those are computerized search systems used for information searching in the internet. Nowadays search engines have many subtypes itself, but all have the same working principles – user enters keywords and search criteria and system offer many results. These results are found by special algorithm. Most popular search engine that most of us have used many times is Google, but there are also many others.

Most of the entrepreneurs probably have used such information system us data warehouse. That is system which is used for data storage and analyses. They are widely used to collect all kind of data and later compare them to previous periods. They can be either manual or computerized, but nowadays computerized versions are lot more popular.

Something similar is resource planning system. These types of systems also are used by entrepreneurs. This system consists of all kind of data from enterprise activities such as product planning, resources, manufacturing, sales, marketing etc. Also these systems are used to optimize enterprise activities and nowadays they usually are fully computerized.

Geographic information systems are used to storage all kind of geographical data. This is very wide type of information systems, because it has many subtypes and ways of usage. All kind of geographical aspects can be explored and recorded and also they can be used for many reasons, so this type of information systems cannot me definite so easily.

There are also lots of other modern and widely used types of information systems such as global information systems, enterprise automation systems, personal information systems etc. Broadly speaking information system is any organized system of information, not only digital data storage.

Manual databases

Nowadays people are more familiar with electronic databases – computerized file systems which consists of digital records – but before computers became widely popular, only manual data bases were used. Also nowadays they are being used in some institutions, so it is useful to know what they are and how to use them.

Actually the principle of manual database is the same as electronic database – it’s a file system that consists of many records. The main difference is that it is not computerized, so all the records and database itself are tangible. Practically manual databases are file boxes full or paper records and folders. Manual databases are still used in some smaller libraries and also in places where client register is needed for example hospitals.

The records in manual database can be ordered in many ways. Most popular ways of organization are alphabetically, chronologically and numerically. The main purpose of the organization of manual database is to make all the order transparent, so the way of organization depends on the purpose of the database. Very large databases for example library databases also are organized by sections of themes and files in each section is organized by methods mentioned above.

So when it comes to usage of manual database, first you need to understand the organization of it. If you have understood that, all the following work is easy. For example, if records are organized alphabetically by authors, start searching from the letter of authors’ surname. Of course, usage of manual database is more complicated than usage of electronic database, because, you need to go through records by yourself.

Also the maintenance of manual databases is a lot more complicated. Manual databases don’t update automatically, so once in a while the cleaning of records is needed. All the unnecessary records have to be thrown out. If the database consists of huge amount of files, there can be a situation when database consists of useless files. That can encumber searching of records. Of course, manual databases needs a lot more space as well.

As you can see, manual databases are less convenient in many ways, so you might wonder why they still exist at all. That is because it takes a lot of time, work and money to computerize all the file system. For example, to computerize file system of hospitals, there is united system in whole country needed and that means millions of records must be digitalized. However lot of countries has done that and many are planning to do that.

So the era of manual databases is almost over and electronic databases are taking over, but it is good to know how to use them anyway. You never know, when that can turn out useful.

Is Google Scholar fully fledged database?

Lot of professors and lectures suggest students to use only databases for searching academic papers, because they are sure that databases are only reliable academic literature sources. They don’t accept overall web search engines, because information that can be found there is not scientific only, however, the most popular web search engine Google has special search section for academic literature – Google Scholar. Is it as good as any academic database or that is just narrower version of whole search engine?

By definition Google Scholar is a search engine of full text or abstract of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats, not an academic database. Despite that, in Google Scholar it is possible to find academic journals, articles, conference materials, technical reports etc. This search engine consists of more than 200 millions academic documents from witch at least 85% is in English language. So there is a pretty big possibility to find some good academic literature on any topic.

As it is not an academic database there is no charge for usage of it. Anyone can use Google Scholar for fee, which is a huge benefit comparing to real databases. If university doesn’t have subscription of many useful databases, than Google Scholar is a great option.

Google Scholar also has more developed ranking system. Most of the databases offer to rank by one criterion, for example key words, author, publication date etc., Google Scholar has combined ranking algorithm that allows finding the most suitable documents by many criteria. That means user of this search engine can save a lot of time on literature selection, because the first results are usually the most suitable.

So by all that we can say Google Scholar is at least as good as any academic database. Some searchers even claim that, in terms of amount of documents, it can be compared to the most popular databases such as Scopus, Web of Science, EBSCO etc. So if the Google Scholar has so many benefits, why professors and lectures don’t want students to use it?

The main reason it that this search engine can’t provide quality, only quantity. They try to get articles from as many journals as possible, so they don’t sort them. By using Google Scholar you might get some unscientific information. These pseudo-science journals prevent Google Scholar to become reliable academic database.

So in the conclusion we can say that Google Scholar is not fully fledged database, but it can be used for academic works. If you are able to evaluate all search results and distinguish reliable literature sources form unreliable, then there shouldn’t be any problems with search results.

Efficient literature search in bibliographic databases

It is very common situation, when people are trying to search for something on their topic in bibliographic database, but can’t find anything useful; however there is plenty on literature available. The issue is that many people think they know how to do efficient literature search in bibliographic databases, because they are successfully using different web search engines every day, but bibliographic data bases is not that easy. There are many search tricks only few are aware of.

Many people use bibliographic databases just like they use Google – type some keywords and look if there is something useful available. If there is nothing on specific topic, they stop searching on that database. At the same time, if they ask for a help of a librarian, it turns out there is some very useful literature. That is because librarians know how to search efficiently.

Databases are lot more complex than Google or other web search tools, so you need to train to use them. Librarians have experience in this, that’s why they are so good at it. When they can’t find something at first, they try different approach, for example another key words, different theme sections etc. But don’t worry if you don’t have this experience, because there are some tricks that van be used any time.

First you need to define subject you are looking for. You need to understand that every subject can have different perspectives and ramifications. Try to look at your topic very extensively and find the right approach. After you have realized what exactly you need, write down all the possible keywords that describes your topic. Right keywords the key of success in searching, so take some time for that.

Another important thing is to search for literature in as many databases as possible. Don’t focus on only one database, even if you think it’s the best one. There might be some good literature on your topic also in some smaller and less popular databases. This advice is especially useful if you need some literature on very narrow niche topic.

Sometimes you will have to do some really long and serious research, so better record all your activities. Write down what keywords you have already used in each database and also you might write down, in which databases and by which keywords search was successful. This will let you make sure you are not doing the same thing several times and also you will know which keywords work the best on your topic.

If you have found some useful articles, use them for further search. For example, look for the same authors’ works or use the title of the document or book for search. Also you can choose just some sections and continue searching with them. This is very good method and usually it leads useful results.

You should use this search plan every time you are looking for some literature in databases and you will be surprised about the results. By the time you will be able to search as efficient as any librarian.

How useful cross-database search tools are?

When there is a need to find something in bibliographic databases, it can be quite challenging to find the most appropriate and useful databases from the huge supply. Sometimes you have to try out dozen of databases with no results at all until you get to something useful. To facilitate this task you can use cross-database search tools.

Cross database search tools are search tools with which user can look through many bibliographic databases at the same time. With these tools it is possible to look through many sources at once. In some cases it is very useful tool, but at the same time they usually can come along with some problems.

It is true that these tools can help to find a lot of documents very fast, but it can also be a disadvantage at the same time. You will probably find few thousands of documents by using regular keywords, but most of them won’t be useful. Also it is very complicated to narrow the search results this way. If you go through each database one by one, you can use expanded search, but with cross-database tools it is almost impossible, because each database has different searching options. For example, one database might enable to limit documents by methodology used in the study, but other may enable to limit documents by section or other aspects. This leads to a inefficient results, because you will find bunch of documents which includes the used keywords, but the topic might be completely different from what you need.

Of course, some tools are more efficient than the others. If you want to try out these tools you can use such cross-database tools as Cross Search, Discovery, Primo Central etc. These are some of the best ones, because there is some chance of narrowing the results, but there are many others beside these ones. You can test them and decide by yourself, which one of them is the best one and the most useful one. By testing, also you can understand if you want to use them at all.

My advice would be to use cross-database search tools only in situations when, the theme is narrow itself, and there is a small chance to find anything useful in most of the databases. In this case these tools will help you to find some documents at all, and you will save some time on going through bunch of useless databases, but if there is a loud of information in most of the databases then better search one by one. You won’t save any time if you will have to look through thousands of useless documents.

How to find full texts in academic databases?

When it comes to using academic databases, for many students and researchers one of the biggest struggles is to find the full texts in them. If you are not subscriber of the specific academic database, there are only few documents you can read so it is a very common situation when you find an abstract that fits perfectly to your theme, but there is no full text available in the library of the database. So here are some useful tips, what to do in this kind of situation?

If you’re a student, you must have accesses to university databases. Every university is a subscriber of most popular academic databases, so there is a huge chance that you can find the documents you need in one of those. In some cases only professors and lecturers have accesses to them, but then you can ask them for a help. If your university doesn’t subscribe any useful database, then try to find some help from other university students. Usually bigger universities have access to more good databases, so if you know someone from bigger university, don’t hesitate to ask for a help.

If you are not a student and also don’t know any students or lectures that might help you, try some other methods. For example sign up for a demo version of a database. Most of the databases offer this chance to introduce the potential users of their offer. There is not 100% chance that you will get the document you need this way, but you should definitely try.

Another method is just to Google the key words or specific title of the document. This also won’t work in any situation, but there is quite a big chance you will get what you need. This is a good way, how you can try to find specific document, because you can check a lot of databases through Google and there is a chance, in one of these databases the full text will be available. If there is at least one database in which full text is free, you will definitely find it using Google.

You can try also some underdog methods. For example, if the documents’ author is not a huge authority and if the document is written lately, there is also a chance to contact the author himself. If the author will be interested in your thesis and you will write a good motivation letter, he might help you.

If none of the previous methods is working, your only reasonable chance is to buy the document. Some databases don’t sell single documents, only subscriptions, so that might be too expensive, but check if it is possible to buy single document in other databases. If it is possible to buy just the one document you need, maybe it’s worth it.

So, if you use these methods, you should find any document you need from the academic databases. IF none of this is working, unfortunately you will have to pay for a subscription or manage without the documents from databases.

Electronic bibliographic databases

Many of us have used digital bibliographic databases. Basic usage of them seems very simple – just type some keywords and you can find whatever you want, however you will get a lot better results if you will know what exactly you should type in. To get a better understanding of using the digital bibliographic databases, everyone should know what these databases actually are and how they work.

To understand the principles of digital databases, first think of the library card files that were quite a popular just few years ago. In those card files was kept book index cards. Every book in the library has this index card, which consists of information about the book (author, year, publisher, short description etc.), so you can imagine the enormous count of paper files kept in libraries. To find the book needed the reader first had to find the right section of the theme and then look for the specific book by its title or author. Sounds complicated, but it is actually the same principle which is used in digital bibliographic databases.

Digital databases consist of digital records of the books and other documents instead of the paper cards, but these records perform the same functions. The usage of the digital database is lot easier. Reader just needs to type some keywords or specific title or author and he will get all the results available. In case keywords are not specific enough, there is a huge chance user will get a lot of results that are not useful, so it is very important to choose the right keywords.

Digital databases usually hold the records only for electronic documents such as researches or journals, but nowadays also traditionally libraries have their own databases. The principles of usage is the same, the only difference is that, after finding a document or any other piece of literature, reader has to find it in a library, not receive in electronic format.

So any bibliographic database holds files about the literature needed, not the piece of the literature itself. Of course, by using the digital database, reader sometimes can get the full document if it’s in electronic format, but it is not saved in the same database.

Any digital bibliographic database is limited. Just like the traditional bibliographic file doesn’t hold index cards of the books that are not in the library, also digital database doesn’t hold records of any literature that is not in the specific library. Although, some digital databases are connected to other, lager libraries, so the reader would know where to find the literature that he needs. In some cases these libraries or databases can even transfer some documents to each other, so the reader could get whatever he needs.

So remember that electronic databases work almost the same as tradition library files. That means searching of any file will be a lot easier if you will use the keywords that are mentioned in file record. Also it is useful to first select the specific section before searching to narrow the amount of results, just like with bibliographic files.