What to look up
What to look up
What can you look up on CompuServe? Just about anything! Take a look at this short list of examples:
- Business, company, and financial information
- Science and medical data
- Information of interest to educators
- Newspaper, magazine, and newsletter articles
- Law and government data
- Radio and television broadcast schedules and program transcripts
- Computing information
- Sports history and current events
- Phone numbers
When you find an article, you’re often given the choice of viewing brief bibliographic information (article title, author, publication date, and so on), an abstract (summary) of the important information, or the complete full-text article. The reason you have this choice of what to display is that different databases store different amounts of data.
Where to look it up
CompuServe offers a number of different databases, but they all operate similarly and are quite comprehensive. The following sections give you a quick look at some of the most popular ones.
TIP Many of CompuServe’s online databases feature fairly detailed instructions. When possible, download these instructions to your hard drive to reduce your online reading time and to keep them for future use. Also, consider selecting the least amount of information available. An abstract usually costs less than a full-text retrieval, and it doesn’t take as long to download.
IQuest (GO IQUEST) is the most comprehensive reference database available on CompuServe. Actually, it’s a collection of more than 850 separate databases, linked through the IQuest front end. Fig. 15.1 shows you IQuest’s main menu.
|CAUTION||‘Quest charges can be pretty expensive: you’ll pay at least a few bucks for anything you do on Quest. In addition, some of IQuest’s databases tack on surcharges that range from $2.00 to $75.00! Take note of all applicable charges before you begin an IQuest search.|
With IQuest, you can find information on just about every topic and from almost every source imaginable. You’ll probably find yourself accessing IQuest frequently when you’re looking for information. It is definitely the most-used reference database on CompuServe.
Note that many “separate” databases on CompuServe are actually part of the IQuest database. For example, the Management InfoCenter (GO
IQMANAGEMENT) is just a subset of the larger IQuest database. So don’t be surprised if you type a GO command, and it takes you to the IQuest front end!
IQuest search tips
When you search on IQuest, understanding certain things and putting them into effect will make your search more efficient and productive.
To begin with, it doesn’t matter whether you use lowercase or uppercase characters; !Quest is case-insensitive. IQuest is sensitive, however, to common words such as “a,” “of,” “the,” “to,” and so on. They’ll slow down your search, so avoid them.
You can use such operators as AND, OR, and NOT to combine keywords in your search. For example, you can search for articles that contain both the words “Mustang AND Ford.” This results in a very different search than if you use OR or NOT.
You should also use parentheses to group search items. For example, if you searched for “Ford AND (Mustang OR Pinto),” (Quest would return articles on either Ford Mustangs or Ford Pintos.
Don’t forget about wild cards. IQuest uses the slash character (/) to represent one or more characters at the end of a word (kind of like the asterisk (*) in DOS file names). So to search for “Miller,” “Milner,” and anything else that starts with “Mil,” just enter “Mil/.”
Keep in mind the size of the databases involved, and remember that it’s important to make your searches as narrow as possible; if you don’t you’ll be overwhelmed with responses. For example, to look for info on the 1994 Mustang, make sure you add “1994” to the search phrase “Mustang”; this will help make your search more efficient.
It’s also a good idea to either print the data you retrieve or save it to a file. To do the former, pull down the Terminal menu and select Log to Printer. To save the data to a file, pull down the Terminal menu and select Log to File.
Knowledge Index (GO KI) is kind of an IQuest service with training wheels. It’s not quite as big as IQuest. It’s also not quite as accessible; you can only access it after normal business hours (after 6:00 p.m. during the week) and
on weekends. Unlike IQuest, Knowledge Index charges by the hour instead of by the search or retrieval. Rates at the time of this writing were $24 per hour.
Knowledge Index provides access to more than 50,000 journals in more than 100 databases. KI is good for general searches, as well as for more specific engineering, technical, and legal searches. Obviously, it’s not as wide ranging as IQuest, nor is it as good for business or financial searches. It’s a good place to start, though, and it’s a lot cheaper than IQuest.
I find Knowledge Index particularly useful for searching local newspapers. I generally choose the News & Current Affairs option and then pick a newspaper to search. KI keeps full-text articles on file for most major U.S. newspapers, so it’s a pretty comprehensive search.
CENDATA: The Census Bureau service
The Census Bureau’s (GO CENDATA) information on manufacturing, housing starts, agriculture, and more is available online through CompuServe. When you access CENDATA, you can locate tabular data reports and other data culled from the Bureau’s 1990 census.
CENDATA provides access to a wide range of data—more than just the boring census stuff. CENDATA is a great source for all sorts of demographic information. (Market researchers love this database!)
Computer Library (GO COMPLIB) is a family of databases maintained by Ziff-Davis. These databases, which focus on computer-related topics, include the following:
- Computer Database Plus, which contains articles from a variety of computer industry publications
- Computer Buyer’s Guide, which contains specifications for a wide variety of computer hardware and software products
Grolier’s Academic American Encyclopedia
Grolier’s (GO GROLIERS) is an online version of its print encyclopedia. In all, you can find more than 33,000 articles (and 10 million words) and all the topics you expect to find in a print encyclopedia. Grolier’s is a good resource for students.
The Hutchinson Encyclopedia (GO HUTCHINSON) is an online version of the noted British print encyclopedia. It’s about the same size as Grolier’s (34,000 articles), but it’s a little more academic in style (it’s updated regularly by professors at Oxford University). Fig. 15.2 shows a screen from the Hutchinson Encyclopedia.
Information Please Almanac
The Information Please Almanac (GO GENALMANAC) is a collection of articles about a variety of general-interest topics. You can browse the Almanac by general categories (ranging from Astronomy to World Statistics), or you can search for specific topics.
When looking for a phone number, search by name and complete address. This keeps your search narrow and helps you find the right number faster. The slowest way to search is by state only, under the Surname and Geogaphical Area option; the result of such a search is a list of everyone in the entire state with that last name.
While Phone*File is a great way to find personal phone numbers, it doesn’t include listings for businesses. To find the phone number of a business, you have to use Phone*File’s sibling, Biz*File (GO BIZFILE).
Biz*File works like Phone*File. You can perform the following searches:
- A search for a company’s phone number if you know its name and geographical area
- A search for a company’s address if you know its phone number
- A search for a list of companies within a certain industry (similar to a Yellow Pages heading)
If you want to search for a toll-free number, get on the World Wide Web and go to AT&T’s 800 Directory ( http://attnet/dir800/). This site lets you search a comprehensive list of 800 numbers, either by category or name. It’s a great resource if the company you need to call has a toll-free number.
- News, weather, and sports on the Net
- A tour of People Magazine Online
- Reading online newspapers and magazines
- Getting fanatic about sports
- How’s the weather?