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J came to see me today. She is an ISE PHD student I have been helping out (for all you folks who are not aware – we provide Advisory Services to students working on thesis or research papers).

J is a smart cookie. Works hard and smart. I enjoy our meetings. J started coming to me after she had already started some searching on her own. Her supervisor was getting concerned about her direction and decided it was time she sought help. Thus, began a friendship of sorts between librarian and student.

Today, she came over after a long while. We decided to meet after she emailed asking how she could look for press releases of innovations of some telcos in the quickest, most convenient way. The most obvious way is to use Factiva’s company search but there is a problem with downloading. So the other way is to use the Wires category.

In her email, something seemed to shout out at me. Her qualifying exams are fast approaching and she needed data for at least 5 years. My gut told me that it wasn’t about being exhaustive anymore. It was very likely efficiency.

When we met up, I asked her. She smiled and laughed and started relating how she shudders whenever she encounters thousands upon thousands of records. She could not compromise on exhaustivity. So we started going through Factiva using a combination of company, wires and date range searches. The date range was to control the large volume of results. When I started talking to her about using specific keywords or phrases to draw out the product announcements, J suggested 2 verbs. Our girl was noting patterns in the articles she was reading. She also noted that one company stuck to a standard way of announcing products starting with “XYZ launched ….” in the lead paragraph while another kept the keyword “launch” and “announce” to the last paragraph.  She also identified companies which shot out pre-product launches (eg. “XYZ is to launch”). This was great because we started knocking out “to launch” press releases to manage the results better.

J had got to a point in her search where she was confident enough to determine what direction she should be going.  She was feeling the drag of huge results but yet she could not compromise on covering all bases. She knew when to stop and say, there must be an easier way.  There are easier ways but you can’t expect to knock out hard work altogether. J knows that. But this time she is working a little bit smarter and building up on her search skills as she goes along.

As I said, she is one smart cookie.

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