Tag Archives: quality information

Why are subscription services better than free access search engines?

This is a difficult question to answer because the viewpoint changes for each person (i.e. a librarian and a student, for example, will look at information in a different light even though they use both subscription services and free access search engines). This post attempts to answer this question by breaking the question down.

Why are paid searches better than free access searches?

Paid search offer a better interface. Subscription services are less likely to change their interface as regular as free access search engines. This allows a user to get used to a specific interface, which, inturn, is better. From an interface perspective, subscription services are more involved and in-depth.

As part of an interview a librarian stated that people are more likely to look at the first (or second) page of free access search engine, such as, Google. This is not the case with subscription services.

What is the added value of subscription services?

The short answer is ‘quality material’ can be access via subscription services. The longer answer, albeit slight, suggests that subscription services are extensively connected. For example, academic journals are linked to other journals which can be easily found by the searcher, such as the ‘cited by’ feature. In other words, subscription services know what an article is, how/why it is connected to another article. Free access search engines (i.e. Google Knowledge Graph) are starting to build up these connections, but they have a long way to go.

What is the added value to subscription services?

Quality of material. Instant access you might not get to go beyond. Academic databases are starting to get indexed by Google crawlers. BBC and Wikipedia get precedence. Better interface, post search tagging options (even if not thought of search terms), usability is a lot better. Instant access. Can’t beat library catalogue from each institution. If you’re paying for subscription services, you’re crazy not to use them. Could get lucky with free access search engines, sub subscription you get.

What might a librarian call a ‘quality’ source?

In order to find out why people within the information industry pay for information I got 14 librarians to complete a self-completed questionnaire. This post identifies what makes quality information*.

What makes subscription services better?

There is no single answer to this question. The responses seem to suggest that paid, subscription services offer better quality information. So, what makes quality information? The following (ordered) list addresses what MMU Librarians suggest is quality information. In parenthesis (round brackets) the number indicates how many librarians shared this view within this survey.

  1. Peer reviewed (8)
  2. Academic (4)
  3. Authoritative (4)
  4. Better quality (4)
  5. Relevant results (3)

What makes quality information?

From a personal viewpoint, a good search is a search which is relevant to the search query. But defining quality can be a little tricky because there are so many words to describe quality.

From an interface viewpoint
There is less clutter on subscription services. Furthermore, this interface is uniform (i.e. it does not change for certain users).

From a search engine results pages’ (SERP) viewpoint
Quality results are: in date, accurate (because they match to the search query), indexes bigger selection (possibility because the deep web is used in their resources), relevant results (because each hit is related to the search query), and, more focused.
From a creators’ viewpoint
Subscription services offer editorial / scholarly resources. This has an impact on quality control. For this reason, subscription services are unlikely to have completely irrelevant hits. It is also worth noting that anyone can publish on the Surface Web.

Do paid services offer better quality information?

The short answer is yes. Paid subscription services are more likely to be relevant to a search query. It is worth noting, though, both paid and unpaid services produce irrelevant hits within their SERPs because the current algorithms do not calculate a positive or negative outcome for accuracy.

In other words, if a search engine thinks a document is a little relevant, it will show in the SERP, even if a relevant term is contained within a document in a completely different context.

*This is not necessarily a librarians viewpoint. This study was completed in Manchester Metropolitan Universities’ largest library, the Sir Kenneth Green Library.