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Dagobert Soergel
College of Information Studies, University of Maryland

Representing knowledge about databases in an intelligent guide to databases

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With the large number of databases available today, even experienced searchers cannot rely on their memory for database selection; for them, too, this step has become a retrieval problem of its own. In terms of just the numbers of items involved, this retrieval problem may seem much less formidable then retrieval in a large bibliographic database such as Chemical Abstracts. However, many factors must be considered when judging the usefulness of a database for a search. Furthermore, for online databases one must take in to account the characteristics of the search system on which they are implemented and the users familiarity with this search system.

The factors to be considered are so many and the connections and computations to be made so complex, that the human searcher cannot cope and cannot be expected to make optimal selections with any consistency. Furthermore, many requests require the use of several databases in combination, adding another layer of complexity to the selection process. An expert system, or knowledge-based retrieval system, is needed for a satisfactory solution of these problems.
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