• clarification of the options for viewing the search results, including the use of the customized display option that narrows the display to specific content areas (e.g., animal toxicity studies, emergency medical treatment, human health effects); and

  • improved mechanisms for providing "help" information (e.g., increased use of links to the help screens, development of a tutorial, and eventual use of context-sensitive help).

The committee found that the current search interface is too complex for the novice but does not offer the specificity and complexity needed by expert searchers. This disparity indicates the need for more than one search interface, and the committee recommends the development of three levels:

  • Quick Search—This option would consist of a single input box for entering all search terms. Examples include the initial screens for Alta Vista and PubMed. Search results would be less refined but would allow for searching TOXNET information in a manner familiar to Web users.

  • Step-by-Step Search—This interface would have detailed instructions to walk the searcher through each step of the search process and would be geared to the novice or infrequent searcher who wants to have substantive retrieval but is not familiar with the databases.

  • Advanced Search—This interface would offer the complexity needed to equal the specificity and the power of the command line interface and could include a number of features such as simple and nested Boolean searching, truncation, field searching, phrase searching, and proximity searching.

Additionally, several other long-term enhancements should be considered to improve the quality and efficiency of the search process. These improvements include:

  • development of cross-database searching capabilities,

  • an online thesaurus and chemical dictionary,

  • detailed search analysis screens, and

  • extensive hypertext links within and among TOXNET records and between TOXNET records and MEDLINE and TOXLINE records.

To fully utilize the information contained in the TOXNET databases, it is critically important to integrate TOXNET with other NLM databases, particularly MEDLINE and TOXLINE. Because MEDLINE is a standard source of biomedical information for health professionals, any links (or other methods of) connecting a bibliographic citation to the relevant information in the TOXNET databases would greatly enhance the use of the TOXNET information and would provide an added service to MEDLINE searchers. It is hoped that the

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