Interconnected Thoughts That Need Indexing

Having finished two weeks of database training with the 1st year law students, there a few disjointed and loosely connected thoughts that have occurred to me. I should probably spend a bit more time ruminating on these before I post; however, this is the interweb, so half-baked thoughts are the order of the day. I was happy with how the students did this year but a few things jump out. Keyword searching is great, I use it all the time but I have also been keyword searching for a long time and have some specialized training in searching. If you are new to an area or to search operators in general, forgo keyword searching and look for indexes or browse functionality where experts have gone before you and done the heavy lifting. If you are in law school and especially first year law school, the work has been done before, by experts in the field, don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

I think the prevalence of keyword searching has made people lose track of the interconnectedness of information. With keyword searching you don’t necessarily see the connections between the layers of information that you are using. This is especially significant in law where legislation, caselaw, secondary sources and proper citation are all intrinsically linked. People who are accustomed to typing a few words into a search engine don’t always seem to fully comprehend that they are looking for a linked chain rather that a result list from a keyword search.

As much as I like Google and use it constantly, I place the blame for over-reliance on keyword searching at Google’s doorstep. It is in light of this that the following article caught my attention having been tweeted by a colleague a short time ago: “Google is polluting the internet: The danger of allowing an advertising company to control the index of human knowledge is too obvious to ignore”. The idea of a public search engine or in other terms, a collaborative public project on the organization of knowledge is one that I find appealing.


  1. >> If you are in law school and especially first year law school, the work has been done before, by experts in the field, don’t try to reinvent the wheel<<

    Ah, but if you're in law school to become a lawyer in private practice, you get to bill for reinventing the wheel: at least so long as the client can't catch you and you don't know that you're doing it.

    Putting it another way, expertise is not a professional asset – in the sense of an assert that increases one's revenue stream – if (1) one's hourly rate is capped below what one could charge if one could charge what one is (ahem) worth on the market and (2) one doesn't have more work than one can do oneself even allowing for time saved bec


  2. What a fabulous take David. It doesn’t explain why some commercial publishers don’t publish their indexes online, but it does explain why no-one makes much of a noise about it. Perhaps it’s only librarians who care as we spend so much time sifting and fossicking through un-useful results that searching inefficiently is something we do our best to avoid. BF

  3. As a future library technician, I am discovering a whole new electronic world out there which is not taught in any depth to school students nor explained to the general public. It is all too easy to click on Google or Wikipedia for a generic, bland response so I believe the focus should be shifted from the commercialisation of knowledge to re-educating the computer-users of this world to seek further, dig deeper and understand that there is a lot more information available outside the confines of major search engines. Are we becoming so reliant on speedy delivery that we are willing to sacrifice our individuality of thought?