I’ve been training librarians to use the various databases in the Michigan eLibrary for a number of years. Of course, every time I think I’ve got the “advanced” techniques down cold, the publishers come along and tweak the programming behind the scenes to make it easier for those using basic search techniques to get a better result. In the process, my “expert” knowledge gets tossed out the window without my being any the wiser.
A recent post in Laika’s MedLibLog demonstrates this principle with the Cochrane Library. When more is less: Truncation, Stemming and Pluralization in the Cochrane Library points out that Cochrane’s search feature automatically uses stemming, pluralization, and singularization, so searching tumor finds tumor, tumors, tumour, and tumours. The feature only works when searching without truncation, though, so using tumor* will find tumorectomy, etc., but not tumour and its variations.
The lesson for us expert searchers is, from time to time, to check the “help” documents to see if our techniques are still valid — particularly if we start getting odd results.