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Advanced research techniques of the Lum Library (1).

The Lum Library is an essential resource for appraisers. Appraisers rely on the library to provide accurate, in-depth information when researching a topic. The Lum Library's database includes almost 30 years of The Appraisal Journal, 22 years of Real Estate Appraiser and Analyst, 7 years of Valuation Insights & Perspectives, and approximately 1,500 books. Because some topic areas comprise vast or significant information, it is important to know how to efficiently access the library's materials. The following presents some techniques to refine a search and to better identify titles on your research topic.

Search Approaches

Keyword Search

When a query is conducted through a web browser on the Internet, the technique is known as a "keyword" search. On the Lum Library's Web page, the "Basic" search option is a keyword search. The word is typed into the search box and a list is displayed that shows materials containing that term. If the search results list too many items, more words may be added to the query to refine the search and reduce the number of results. Placing quotation marks around the terms being searched also can narrow the search results; the search engine will only look for instances where the terms appear in the order shown inside the quotation marks.

The Lum Library online catalog offers the full text of Appraisal Journal articles published after 1996. For these articles, a keyword query will search the entire text for the key word in addition to searching the abstracts and titles. While including the text provides access to all of the information within an article, the results of keyword queries will include of inappropriate search results as well. This occurs when the searched-for term appears in the article, but the article is on a completely different topic.

Thesaurus Terms

The Lum Library's catalog has another solution that can be used for research: the "thesaurus terms" search option. The thesaurus terms option looks for synonyms of the term being researched. It searches the specific vocabulary used to index items by categories or subject areas. Thesaurus terms are similar to subject headings, which are a standard in library cataloging, and have the advantage that they can be tailored to specific subject matter.

The Lum Library has developed a thesaurus explicit to research on real estate valuation. All books, papers, articles, and multimedia cataloged online receive one or more of these terms. The Appraisal of Real Estate (2) was used to establish the appraisal terms, and special-purpose properties have been identified by their common names.

When the "Browse Thesaurus Terms" option is used for an online search, the results will show "See" and "See also" cross-references that direct the researcher to related terms (e.g., "Self-storage facilities see Miniwarehouses").

Thesaurus terms ensure a thorough search of the library's online catalog and can be used to supplement a keyword search. When an article's bibliographic record is displayed, scroll to the end of the bibliographic record to view a list of more terms to search on your research topic. These terms include synonyms and closely related topics. Clicking on one of the terms will launch a search of that term.

One advantage of a thesaurus term search is that it will provide a link to appropriate case studies. The case studies found in Appraisal Journal articles are indexed by thesaurus terms. If the abstract does not mention the type of special-purpose property in the case study and the full text is not searchable (e.g. only available in PDF format), then a keyword search will not find that article. A thesaurus term search, however, will provide a link to the article.

There is an ongoing effort to expand the number of articles that have searchable texts. During 2004, Journal articles from 1991 to 1996 will be scanned into a computer-readable format. The entire text of these article will be researchable and readable online. Articles prior to 1991, however, will still be searchable only through the bibliographic record. The retrospective cataloging of The Appraisal Jaurnal permits searches of bibliographic material from 1974 to the current issue. The Lum Library's goal is to continue to expand the online information to the first issue of The Appraisal Journal in October 1932.

Searches Using Thesaurus Terms

The following are examples of how to conduct a search using thesaurus terms.

The option to search by thesaurus terms is located in the menu bar of the Catalog tab. Enter the term that is of interest, for example "cell towers." This search will produce an alphabetical list of terms, cross-references will be indicated by "See" and "See also." In this example, the list displays cellular towers with a "See" cross-reference to the term "Communication towers." The Titles column shows that eight titles have been cataloged under this term.

Click on "Communication towers" to display a list of titles, the first title shown is "Highest and Best Use and the Special-Purpose Property." Click on this article title to display the full bibliographic record. Even reading the abstract, there is no indication of how this article addresses the topic of communication towers. Next find the row beneath the title labeled "Image" and click on the words "Click here to download article." When the PDF of the article is displayed, you can read through the article to learn that the article's case study is about communication towers. This demonstrates how useful thesaurus terms can be in certain circumstances.

A search of some terms can produce too many results. As an example, perform a query for information on hotels by typing the word "hotel" into the search box. The search result displays the thesaurus term, "hotel, hotels & motels." There are 68 titles indexed under this term. Click on the term "hotel, hotels & motels" to display the titles. (3) Even though the titles are displayed in reverse chronological order, there are many bibliographic records to review. The query still needs to be refined.

There is a way to narrow a thesaurus search. Now that the thesaurus term has been defined, click on the menu option "Expert" at the top of the page. This is a keyword search that combines indices and searches more than one index at a time. Searches could combine: authors and general keywords, thesaurus term with another thesaurus term, title and author, or thesaurus terms and general keywords.

Because keyword queries look for the exact spelling of the term, it is best to first browse for terms in the "Thesaurus Term" menu option before performing a thesaurus keyword search. Also, the keyword query does not link the cross-reference terms. A keyword query could miss finding information because the correct terms were not being searched.

For an example of an "Expert" search, in the "Expert" search screen choose "Thesaurus Keyword" in the drop box and type in "hotels & motels." In the next row choose to search "General Keyword" and type "assessment." Nine titles will be found that have been indexed under the thesaurus term "hotels & motels" and contain the word "assessment" in the bibliographic record or full text (if available).

There is another way to perform this query by using two thesaurus terms. On the "Expert" search screen, choose "Thesaurus Keyword" in the drop box and type "hotels & motels." In the next row, again choose "Thesaurus Keyword" search and type "assessment." This search produces two titles. Since both titles were indexed with both terms, these results should be exactly on target.

A good approach to multiterm query is to perform the search with the first search term only to make sure the spelling is correct. Then perform the search again with another search term to pinpoint the topic. If building a search with this methodology produces no results, then it is clear that the last term needs to be changed or spelled correctly.

Below is an example of an author search narrowed by a thesaurus term. This method is useful with an author who has written many articles. This list of titles may be refined by a term.

The Appraisal Journal column "Cases in Brief" may be queried the same way. A search for "Cases in Brief" yields 154 titles. By adding a general keyword to this term, a case can be quickly and easily identified. For example, there are four results with the word church *. Adding the "*" to a keyword search term allows the search to include the single or plural form of the term (e.g., church or churches).

Any combination of indices may be used to narrow a query. The number of records will determine whether the search needs to be refined. The more words you search, the more narrow your results list will be. Library staff is always available to assist with a search by demonstrating a search or sending the results with the search methods.

Other Resources

The Lum Library offers three electronic resources in addition to the Appraisal Institute online catalog: First Search, a collection of databases that includes two major business databases, ABI Inform and WilsonSelectPlus; Associations Unlimited, a directory of associations; and the Appraisal Institute of Canada's resources Web page, a link to their online reference sources.

First Search

Through a grant from the Illinois State Library, FirstSearch is available without charge to Appraisal Institute members. When FirstSearch is launched, another online catalog displays. This online system is different from the Lum Library catalog and will have different screens. The search strategy, however is similar to querying the Lum Library system.

To access FirstSearch, click on the "Other Resources" option of the Lum Library homepage. FirstSearch first displays a choice of which business databases to search. There is the option to search ABI Inform and WilsonSelectPlus together or separately. As these are very large databases with large result counts, it is best to search each database individually. After you select either ABI Inform or WilsonSelectPlus, the basic search page will be shown. Both databases are best referenced by clicking on the "Advanced Search" button at the top of this page. Advanced search provides the option to choose to have the results displayed in reverse chronological order. At the bottom of the search screen the row labeled, "Rank by," has a drop box to choose one of the following: "No ranking," "Relevance," and "Date." This screen provides the same type of search boxes to enter keywords as the "Expert" search screen in the Lum Library's catalog.

Since these databases search over 1,000 journals, there is need to add search terms to narrow the search results. The descriptor field is very useful for narrowing searches. The descriptor is a controlled vocabulary similar to the Lum Library's thesaurus terms. Enter the terms "real estate valuation or real estate" into the descriptor search box and then search a keyword in the next row. This will help streamline the results to show articles concerned with real estate topics.

The full text of articles is not always available online from FirstSearch, and the full text does not include charts and graphs. The Lum Library has sources to obtain copies of some articles. However, some periodicals are very difficult to find, particularly periodicals in tabloid format. Please keep this in mind when requesting a copy.

There is a trick to exiting FirstSearch and returning to the Lum Library catalog. By clicking on the Internet browser's back arrow, FirstSearch sometimes does not want to let go. Click on the back arrow until the "List Databases by topic" screen reappears, and then quickly double click the back arrow. You may need to perform this more than once, to return to the Lum Library screen.

Associations Unlimited

Associations Unlimited is the electronic version of the Encyclopedia of Associations. It is a database of national and international associations that provides contact information, services, publications, and information available. The database may be queried by association name or acronym, location, or subject/any word search.

For example, a subject/any word search on "convenience stores," would find the National Association of Convenience Stores. Their description lists a library that might hold industry statistics, income/ expense data, or sales records. This database could be very useful for special-purpose properties.

The Associations Unlimited database has a limited number of concurrent users. If the screen displays, "Concurrent Usage Limit Reached," please try again in a few minutes. Please contact Lum Library staff if this screen is constantly displayed.

Appraisal Institute of Canada

In a cooperative agreement, the Appraisal Institute and Appraisal Institute of Canada are sharing Web resources. The Appraisal Institute of Canada's Resource Center provides access to FAQ (frequently asked questions), Document Library, Resource Search, Resource Links, Bibliography, and Canadian Appraiser.

The Resources Search page performs a keyword search of their collection of articles and papers. The Bibliography page indexes their collection by means of vocabulary specific to appraiser issues. The Canadian Appraiser contains a table of contents similar to those of The Appraisal Journal and Valuation Insights & Perspectives.


If your research query of the online catalog or any of these resources is not completely successful, please contact the Lum Library for assistance. Library staff is ready to lend a hand with your information needs. We are familiar with the search characteristics of these databases. Also, for subject areas with few or no sources, the library maintains a wish list of topics, which it shares with the Appraisal Institute publications department and the editorial staffs of The Appraisal Journal and Valuation Insights & Perspectives.
 Prev 10
Search Results Thesaurus Terms

 Browsing results matching cell

 Thesaurus Terms

 Cellular towers
 * See: Communication towers
 Cement plants
 * See also: Industrial properties
 Census data
 Census tracts

 Next 10
Search Results Thesaurus Terms

 Browsing results matching cell

 Thesaurus Terms Titles

 Cellular towers 0
 * See: Communication towers 8
 Cement plants 1
 * See also: Industrial properties 74
 Cemeteries 5
 Census data 14
 Census tracts 1

(1.) The Y.T. and Louise Lum Library is underwritten by the Appraisal Institute Education Trust.

(2.) Appraisal Institute, The Appraisal of Real Estate, 12th ed. (Chicago: Appraisal Institute, 2001).

(3.) Note that the search results show only 41 titles instead of the 68 listed in the titles column; this discrepancy is a bug in the program--the correct count is 41 titles.

Eric Goodman, is director of the Y.T. and Louise Lee Lum Library. He received an MS in library science from Florida State University. Goodman has been with the Appraisal Institute for over 12 years. Contact: T 312-335-4467; E-mail; Web site:
COPYRIGHT 2004 The Appraisal Institute
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:notes and issues
Author:Goodman, Eric
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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