Reference Finder is one of the suite of digital discovery tools provided by the National Academies and the National Academies Press, and initially released in August 2005. Other tools include the Chapter Skim, Web Search Builder, and our rich, tailored search engine, all focusing on applying the rich text of the 4000+ books on the site.

The difference is that Reference Finder, instead of analyzing the chapters of the reports of the National Academies, works with content you provide.

Reference Finder has two end modality, based on roughly the same same internally-developed content analysis algorithms. Each modality takes something you provide -- a rough draft of a paper, an article or blog posting, or any other long-ish document -- and applies it purposefully.

In the first form, it automatically takes the text you provide, analyzes it, then takes the N top phrases it's identified and throws them at the NAP search engine search engine -- which then aggregates the responses and identifies the reports that are most likely to have content that might apply to your needs. This is imprecise at best, of course, but often results in serendipitous discovery, something that most search engines are frequently bad at doing. The imprecision is, in many ways, its strength.

In the second form, it takes the N top phrases it's identified from your content, and provides you with an interface for using your own language to construct precise searches of the Web. Single word searches return a deluge of results from most search engines; single phrases return a rushing river. Two required phrases, in contrast, usually return a manageable stream of very specific results.

But most people have difficulty inventing a multitude of appropriate terms for searching. Reference Finder is something of a prosthetic device, helping you identify the "terms of art" built into your own, or others', content. Further, we enable you to add, remove, and otherwise fine-tune the options for your precision searches.

Frequently Asked Questions About Reference Finder

How do you get those key phrases?

See About the Search Builder for more information on key-term extraction.

Do I have to buy the books the Reference Finder finds on the NAP site, in order to read them?

All the publications of the National Academies Press -- the 4000+ reports of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Research Council -- are freely available for browsing, reading page-by-page, skimming, searching, or otherwise perusing. We also, not unsurprisingly, try to make it easy to purchase books you might want to read, in print and in electronic formats. Book sales are how we survive financially -- we are required to be self-sustaining -- so we encourage purchasing.

Can I add my own terms?

If you are using the "build Web searches from your own text" option, there's a form that reads "Add new terms to list"

Why do you force me to open new windows for the different search results?

Fundamentally, to save you time. With a tool like this, where you can iteratively experiment with different searches, having a "home base" of options as well as the ability to compare different engines' search results improves a complicated usability issue.

Is the software open source?

See About the Search Builder for more information on this question.

Can I link to Reference Finder from my own site?

Please do. We hope to see this tool being widely used to assist in better discoverability of quality content within the vast resources available online.

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