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ProQuest Dialog (PQD): The New Dialog
Volume 38, Number 1 - January/February 2014

Linking Out

A nifty feature is linking out to the web when a full-text article is available at a publisher’s website. For example, I wanted to learn the number of hits available for the journal Forbes in the ABI/INFORM database. After doing a search using the journal field, jn(Forbes), I noticed that although abstracts were available within PQD, there was a link out to the Forbes website for full-text articles. While I can’t tell you how prevalent this is, i.e., how many journals link out, ProQuest’s Libby Trudell explained that a range of options for linking are supported: “Links may go to journals to which the customer subscribes, or are available for purchase from the publisher, or at no charge on an open source site.”

Adjustments for Longtime Searchers and Other Recommendations

Here are some things to watch for whether you are a long-time Dialog searcher or new to PQD:

Exact Phrases: Use quotation marks around phrases. Otherwise, when searching one word next to another, the default is the Boolean AND. If you search ice cream, for example, the computer finds all documents with the words ice AND cream anywhere in the article. The term market share will give you all documents with the words market AND share. To avoid irrelevant documents, always enclose phrases in quotes for precision results unless the phrase is an index term. You can locate index terms using a thesaurus or through pearl growing.

Truncation : PQD uses lemmatization as the default, which automatically truncates plurals, comparatives, and superlatives. You can uncheck this option in Preferences or truncate any word using an asterisk (*). For an exact word, use quotation marks around the word. Of note: PQD supports right and left truncation as well as wild cards, useful for finding documents with spelling variations or words that begin with the same character string. Caveat: Terms retrieved using either truncation (*) or wildcard (?) characters are not considered when sorting results based on relevance, one option for viewing results. PQD explains: “That’s because there is no way for ProQuest to assess the relevance of these terms to your research. For example, your search for ‘ bio* ’ could return occurrences of any or all of these terms: ‘ bionic ’ or ‘ biosynthesis ’ or ‘ biodegrade ’ or ‘ biographic ’. One, some, all, or none could be relevant to your research.”

Field Codes : Legacy Dialog used two-letter field codes. Field codes were standardized across hundreds of databases, making it easy to remember any used regularly. PQD field codes, on the other hand, can be two, three, or four letters, and some are not particularly mnemonic. Field codes are available within drop-down menus in the Advanced and Command Line search pages, a valuable feature, but some field codes are database-specific. You will need to consult a ProSheet for some databases to identify the correct field code.

Boolean Operators, Proximity Connectors, Truncation, and Wildcard Characters: There are differences in operators, truncation/wildcard characters compared to legacy Dialog. Use Help within the PQD platform. A conversion guide is also available in the Help area.

  • Relevance Ranking: Many searchers have come to expect results ordered by relevancy algorithms. PQD offers Relevance as the default but also allows you to sort by publication date, either by most recent first or oldest first. You can change the default to whichever you find best for your work. I generally prefer to order results by date and select items myself rather than relying on relevancy algorithms, but having the option is definitely a boon for different types of requirements. The relevance score for general databases, not including patent databases, is determined by the following:
  • The number of query term matches (the more query terms found in a document, the higher the relevance)
  • The proximity of query terms (the closer the query terms in a document, the higher the relevance)
  • The frequency of query terms (the more frequent the terms exist in a document, the higher the relevance)
  • The context of query terms. Documents are ranked based on the fields in which query terms appear and field ranking order is as follows:
  • title
  • subjects
  • abstract
  • author
  • term in full text (if searched)
  • Lastly, the searched word form of the query term is ranked higher than lemmatized forms (terms retrieved from FAST dictionaries) of query terms. FAST is the Microsoft search engine PQD uses (

Bugs and Beefs

During the course of teaching and working with PQD, both students and I came across a few oddities.

My Terms Aren’t There

When reviewing relevancy ranked results, one student found that her terms weren’t anywhere in the result:

One thing that still bugs me is when I do a Boolean search ‘xyz AND abc’, ‘abc’ doesn’t show up anywhere in my search results …

While this phenomenon is not uncommon in Google search results, I was puzzled about it in PQD and consulted several Dialog technical experts. It seems that this could also have happened in legacy Dialog when metadata was searchable but not visible in the document view, such as in the Extended Abstracts in DWPI. The records should show up very low if you’re sorting by relevancy. The metadata is valuable for retrieval, so ProQuest developers took the stance that they would not prohibit retrieval of documents even if the terms are not visible in the document view.

FDB (From Database) Command and Database Names

The FDB (From Database) command is very useful after searching multiple databases and “can help you quickly target part or all of your query to one or more databases without going to the Select Databases page and starting over.” The FDB command applies to just the current search query. To use the FDB command you must type either the name of the database, a shortcut name, or an ID number as part of the search strategy. Here are several search examples to give you a better feel of how this command words:

  • ID: economic AND FDB(10000008)
  • ™resale price maintenance ∫ AND FDB (SOCIALSCISEARCH)
  • TI(food) AND FDB(1008254)
  • FDB(1008295 OR 1007458 OR 1008252) AND food

Unfortunately, some databases have very lengthy names and most shortcuts are too lengthy to memorize and are not really shortcuts at all. You can check Help for a list of shortcuts and copy and paste into the search box. This process, however, interrupts the search flow and takes added time. The database results filter may be a better approach for now, but a better solution is needed. The good news is that when I approached one of my Dialog contacts, she told me, “This is in the pipeline for future development.”

Pricing/Pricing Models

PQD pricing plans are listed at The following options are available:

  • Standard Transactional Plan: Retail price for output and alerts on a pay-as-you-go basis
  • Commitment Plan: Discounts on output, based on making a commitment to a minimum annual contract value
  • Choice and Site License Plans: Flat-rate subscriptions for specific databases or groups of databases

Here are the components of Standard Transactional Plans:

  • Unlimited search and browsing with no connect time charges and free title display format
  • List price for output in various formats (citation, partial, and full), plus alert profiles.
  • Access fee billed as percentage of output charges
  • Service fee, billed semiannually in May and November

To assist transactional users, a pop-up display with cost of the document is included each time a billable item is requested. A cumulative cost estimate for all charges incurred during each session is available. In addition, both transactional and flat-rate customers can run usage reports by database for past months from the ProQuest Administrator Module, which can include the retail cost. This is very useful for keeping track of costs and determining “ROI” on flat rate subscriptions, according to Libby Trudell.

A price list will be made available to account holders on request and is a valuable budget planning document, useful for decision making with regard to which database(s) to use when more than one database covers the same field. PQD is also exploring ways to incorporate the price list from within the platform.

While ProQuest Dialog is meeting demand by providing free searching and price previews for transactional accounts, it’s important to be aware that an additional access fee is billed at 30% of output charges and increases substantially to overall costs. Access fees can vary depending on customer and package; still, the crucial point here is that searchers will have a much better handle on how to budget compared to legacy Dialog pricing models. Goodbye mysterious DialUnits and perplexing Connect Time pricing—and good riddance!

Epilogue: PQD Continues to Grow and Refine

PQD fulfills a range of needs, whether you’re conducting multidisciplinary business research or require scientific, medical, and patent databases. The easy-to-use interface choices, breadth of content, and flexible pricing options are striking. Thoughtful in most every way based on user input from thousands of customers and an extraordinarily dedicated workforce, the new ProQuest Dialog was several years in the making and took untold hours. Still a work in progress, improvements are apparent with periodically released updates. While this developmental process may have been (or still is) somewhat trying to customers, PQD is not one giant database as sometimes thought, but instead, aggregates and incorporates dozens of databases into one vast system, each with an unique underlying database structure. Consolidating all of these databases and standardizing them as much as humanly and technologically possible has been a mammoth undertaking that deserves appreciation. Despite all the changes and streamlined options, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that professional searchers will want to learn new ProQuest Dialog techniques and adjust their search habits. As Marydee Ojala says: “Yes, you can do the proverbial ‘quick and dirty’ search. It will work. Careful information professionals, however, will benefit from studying how to effectively use all the bells and whistles PQD has baked into the new system” (

ProQuest Dialog cleverly provides for serious searchers in countless ways. It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s a super system! Say goodbye to the old and hello to the new ProQuest Dialog.

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Amelia Kassel has been president and owner of MarketingBase, a global business research firm, which specializes in industry, company, and competitive and market intelligence research, since 1982. A recognized author and international speaker, she conducts seminars for associations and conferences and gives workshops onsite for companies and organizations. 


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