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Discussions with Deb: Office of Scientific and Technical Information

February 4, 2020

February 4, 2020

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Discussions with Deb: January 2020 Blog

I spend a lot of time looking for and reading documents that contain information on different Department of Energy sites.  I thought some of you might be interested in learning more about how to locate documents.

The DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) has an online database of over 3,000,000 documents.  While not all of OSTI’s documents link to the actual document, many do.  This can be very useful but using the interface is not always as straight-forward as one would think.  Here are a few tips I have picked up over the years.

OSTI opens with a main search bar.  I have found this to be of limited use because it doesn’t narrow the search terms enough.  For example, if I enter Mound Laboratory into the search bar it returns 722,696 results; way too many to be useful.  Putting the term inside quotation marks narrows it down to 60,268 results but that is still not useful.

What I like to do is to use the Advanced Search functions. Some of these options return more reliable results than others.  All Fields: may be useful but tends to have the same problem with returning too many results.

Title: For some reason, the title search option does not always return the document you are requesting.  If you do search by title, put the title inside quotation marks or you may get documents whose titles have some individual words in them.

Author/Contributor: The author search is fairly reliable when you search by last name.  But if you want to add a first name or initial it will return other names. The format used is last name, first name or initial.  Again, if you surround the last name and first name/initial with quotation marks you will get more reliable results.

Identifier Numbers: This is the most reliable field I have found but you need to know the number of the document to use it.  Most Department of Energy documents have a string of letters and numbers, usually in the top right hand corner of the document.  If you have this number you will almost always get the right document, unless someone made an error when keying it in.  If is want to find all the documents from a specific site, this is what I use.  For example: I know that the prefix for Mound documents is MLM.  Searching by this returns 2,391 documents authored at Mound.

Subject: On its own the Subject field often returns too many extraneous documents to be useful, but if you use the Subject field with the Sites field you can often get documents that are more useful.

Site: There is a drop down menu of all the sites included in OSTI in the Site field.  This can help you restrict the documents to just the site you are researching.

Publication Date: This is a way to set dates limits. Limiting the time period in the Update Date field can help you find a document for a specific year or date.  Again, this is most useful when used with another search field.

Sorted by Relevance is in the center of the Search Results page. Next to it is a drop down arrow that allows you to sort by date.  I’m often looking for older documents so I use this to bring up the oldest documents first.

Save Results is next to it.  You can use this to generate a spreadsheet of up to 5,000 search results with all the fields that OSTI has on each document

Full Text Available is below many document descriptions on the Search Results page.  This is a clickable link that downloads a pdf of the document. This is where the gold is!  Click on that link and you will download the document you want to see!

Happy hunting!