bases. As a result, the committee's assessment is primarily focused on the factual database search screen. However, a number of the recommendations may be generalized to the entire TOXNET Web site.

This chapter summarizes the search experiences of the committee and of the individuals who provided input to the committee (Chapter 1). Most individuals searching the TOXNET Web site experienced similar problems. Those problems are highlighted in this chapter's assessment of the current search interface and a number of refinements are noted.


One of the issues associated with the TOXNET system, no matter what the interface, has been the fact that it contains numerous specialized databases (e.g., DART and ETICBACK that focus on the teratology literature), some of which are familiar only to a focused user community. Therefore, the novice or infrequent user may have difficulty in determining which database to select to begin searching.

In most cases, searchers chose the default database, HSDB, as their initial selection. The committee agrees that HSDB should be the default database because it is has a wider range of information than the other factual TOXNET databases. Additional mechanisms are needed for informing the searcher about the content of each of the databases. While, the current help screens do an excellent job of explaining each database and providing the searcher with information on its purpose and structure, few searchers in the committee's experience took the time to read the help information (see later discussion). Options for improving assistance in database selection include:

  • an opening screen with information on each database and guidance in selecting a database;

  • a hypertext link to information about each database, integrating the help information into the search screen; or

  • step-by-step screens that walk the user through the database selection process (see Chapter 3).


The current search form for the factual databases provides one box to enter chemical/other names (e.g., chemical name fragment or Registry Number) and one box to enter subject terms. The form then provides a list of LOOK FOR options for combining the subject terms and another list of options for displaying results.

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