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Northern Light Introduces Precision Search Enhancements
Posted On June 29, 1998
Northern Light Technology continues to press ahead with enhancements to its "research engine," which searches both the World Wide Web and Northern Light's Special Collection of more than 3,400 premium sources. After previewing the new features at several conferences, the company officially introduced three new advanced search features: Publication Search, Power Search, and support for advanced query syntax. The enhancements are designed to meet the search needs of serious business and professional researchers that require more advanced search capabilities.

Publication Search

The new Publication Search form enables users to narrow their searches to a specific publication or publications from the Special Collection sources. Users may search for words or phrases within the selected publications and narrow the results to a specified date range. Results from those publications can be sorted by relevance based on the search terms, or by date. Using Publication Search, users can constrain the results list to publications the user knows are experts in a particular field. If the exact publication title is unknown, users can enter partial titles to find all the titles with the word or phrase they do know.

Power Search

Power Search offers powerful new searching options, including the ability to specify words in a document title or URL, select a date range, narrow the search to Web sites from specific countries, and sort results by date. Users can also target their searches to documents in a specific language or restrict the results to a specific document type, such as a press release or job listing.

Advanced Query Syntax

Information professionals should be pleased by the addition of advanced query syntax that allows them to focus searches by company name, publication, words in a document title, ticker symbol, or URL. The new use of wildcards is also welcome, and the system now supports full Boolean syntax, including compound and nested expressions.

The Question of Currency

When I last tested the NL service on June 2 while writing a NewsBreak item, I was surprised to find about a 5-week time lag in currency of information I retrieved. A company spokesperson promised that "dramatic improvements" were imminent. I ran the same search for information about the MCI/Worldcom merger on June 24 and found the lag reduced to 3 weeks—still not great for tracking current developments.

I ran my search two ways. When I used Power Search, I retrieved 20 items, the latest dated June 4. In Industry Search I found only three items from June, but the latest was a press release dated June 15. A company spokesperson clarified that Industry Search is actually maintained as a separate and much smaller database, categorized and targeted for business needs. It is updated more frequently—in some cases with as little as 2 days' lag. The company promises to continually make improvements to currency. By the third quarter of 1998, it expects to offer full-text real-time searching from newswires.

The enhancements are welcome additions to this innovative service, and with some additional attention to currency, this could be a favorite of many seasoned searchers looking for low-cost alternative services.

Try the enhanced search capabilities of the Northern Light service at

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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