On August 20, Academic Universe presented its new user interface.  Although a few problems have been identified (some have been resolved by the vendor, and some require further work), the new interface significantly improves usability of the Academic Universe databases.

Academic Universe is located at http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe.  Six UC campuses subscribe: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara.  Academic Universe is one of a suite of “Universe Services” operated by the Lexis-Nexis subsidiary Congressional Information Service (CIS).  In the redesigned interface, the user can move, using frames, from one Universe product to the other.  (Only the products to which the campus subscribes display.)

Speed

Lexis-Nexis improved search speed by removing a new searching option, the resource-intensive “More Like This” search.  I would appreciate hearing (at lmkennedy@ucdavis.edu) if you have frequent problems with slowness (also notify Lexis-Nexis with specific examples).

Summary of Interface Changes

The previous twenty-plus Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe databases have been gathered under five main headings: News, Business, Legal Research, Medical, and Reference.  You must search by specific database and subcategory, and cross-database searching is not available.

Source List

The Source link on each Academic Universe page takes you to a list of more than 5,000 titles.  You can browse the list alphabetically, or search for a specific title.  When you select a title, you can display date coverage or data format (full-text, selected full-text, or abstracts) and other information.  You can also select “Search this Title,” to determine where a specific title is located in Academic Universe.  One of the most serious errors in the source list is the filing of titles by initial article (the T’s are a very long list!).  Lexis-Nexis has promised to remedy this problem.

Search Options

In addition to the “Basic Search,” which searches headlines, titles, and authors, depending on the database, there is a sophisticated “More Options” search, which allows you to search full-text and to limit a search to a specific title.  The ability to FOCUS a search by adding additional search terms is retained in the new interface.

Search This Title

Searching for a specific article in a specific title has been simplified.  You can search on the Source List for a specific title, and then click “search this title,” which brings up the “More Options” search screen with the “Search this Publication Title” box already filled in.  The “More Options” search screen has a “limit by title” box in most categories.

Display Options

Display your search results in one of four displays:

  1. a Document List of all citations;
  2. an Expanded List that shows the citation plus key words in brief context (3-5 words);
  3. a KWIC display that shows the key words title by title with 15-25 words of context; and
  4. a Full display that shows each document in full text, item by item.

Users may find the Expanded List the most useful display, because it provides enough information in a concise format to identify relevant citations.

Sorting

In the news and journal databases, the default sort is by reverse chronological order.  In other databases, the default sort may be some other criterion.  The results screen indicates “Sorted by Default” without a definition of the sort criterion.  There is an option to “Sort by Relevance” in addition to “Sorted by Default.”

Marking

The Document List and Expanded List displays allow you to mark boxes to select specific citations.  You may then select the marked citations (citations only) for printing or e-mailing.

Print, Save, and E-mail Options

The new Print/Save and E-mail options are very user-friendly.  Look for the Print/Save and E-mail tabs at the top of results display screens.  You MAY print directly using the browser print button; but since the new interface contains a dark-colored left margin, you will save toner and print in fewer pages by using the Print/Save option for these functions.

Printing and mailing options for full text is a controversial issue on which I would appreciate feedback.  While you can mark citations in the Document List and Expanded List displays to create a selected list of citations for printing, mailing, or downloading, you may only print, mail, or download full text items one by one.  There is no way to send the full text of all of the items in a list in one operation. Academic Universe has received a great deal of comment via its listserver on the printing issue.  Some believe users should be able to mail full text of all of the items in a list; others express concern that users will not realize how many pages they are printing, thus overusing limited printing resources and getting reams of material they don’t need.  A reasonable compromise is to allow libraries to configure the interface for their own institution — to allow or not allow printing of full-text of complete lists, or to limit the number of pages that can be printed.  Lexis-Nexis has not indicated whether the customizing option is feasible.

Help

Lexis-Nexis offers general help screens, but not context-specific help.  New to this interface are a few examples of citing resources in MLA and APA citation styles (accessed through the Help button).  Additional information on using Academic Universe may be found in the Factbook (see below).  Lexis-Nexis Knowledge base is another informational site for Universe products at [http://support.lexis-nexis.com/] Subscribers may call a special customer assistance number: 1-800- 897-3419.  This service is for library staff only, and you will need to know your campus account number.

Instructional assistance: The CIS web site at [http://www.cispubs.com] has links to various sources of information on Universe products.  A revised Academic Universe Fact Book (a user guide and FAQ) can be viewed and downloaded from [http://www.lexis-nexis.com/cispubs/Catalog/Universe/Academic%20Universe/acadufactbk.pdf]

There is also a quick reference “Smart Card” [http://www.lexis-nexis.com/cispubs/Catalog/Universe/Academic%20Universe/smartcvard.pdf]

On-site training for library staff is available for UC library staff.  To request campus training sessions contact dexter.evans@lexis-nexis.com.

The informative monthly product newsletters have been combined into a single publication.  To subscribe, see the information at the end of this communication.  The archive for the newsletters is located at [http://www.lexis-nexis.com/cispubs/Catalog/cis_universe_toc.htm].

To subscribe to the Combined newsletter for Academic, Congressional and Statistical Universes, send the following information to beth.bigman@lexis-nexis.com

Message Subject Line = Subscribe What’s New Newsletter

Information to include:

Name
Title
Institution
Mailing Address
Email
Phone

As the UC Resource Liaison for Academic Universe, I would appreciate receiving feedback on Academic Universe issues at lmkennedy@ucdavis.edu.  Campus problems with slow response time, and opinions on the printing issues mentioned below are of special interest.  Although Academic Universe content is not addressed in this update, I can relay comments about content to Academic Universe.