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Benefits and Limitations of Dynamic Bibliographies

When you click on a link for a dynamically generated publications list for a given subject, you’ll see publications on the subject from NAL’s AGRICOLA database (or other databases). The term "dynamically generated" refers to the fact that a new publications list is created each time you click the link, so the citations you see are always up-to-date.

Behind the scenes is an automated process that utilizes a search strategy that was previously developed and saved. The search is run when you click the link. Unlike manually conducted bibliographic database searches, these automated ones cannot be tweaked once developed or combined with other searches to improve the results. There are some technological constraints as well, such as character limits in the search strategy.

Given the automated nature of this process, there are certain limitations as well as benefits to dynamically generating publication lists:

  • Improved timeliness: Print or manually selected publication lists (bibliographies) are by their nature limited to items published before the date of list publication. However, a dynamically generated list will always contain the most current information from the selected database.
  • Wider subject coverage: Citations might include related topics in addition to the specific topic covered.
  • Limited database coverage: All relevant publications on a certain subject may not have records in a particular database. If there is not record for a publication, it won’t show up on the list.
  • Decreased depth: In an effort to improve precision, some relevant publications may not appear.
  • Irrelevant material: Since there is no manual selection of on-target items, irrelevant publications might be included. It may not be possible to automatically exclude irrelevant items without losing some relevant ones.