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The Psiline Database System
Rhea A. White
The Psiline Database System is a collection electronic bibliographic databases that emphasize parapsychology and related consciousness disciplines. The latter includes literature on altered states, spiritual disciplines that may be psi-related, the mind-body relationship, consciousness anomalies, and theories, methods, and techniques dealing with aspects of consciousness. It has the same aim as its hard copy spin-off, Exceptional Human Experience (formerly Parapsychology Abstracts International), but it is much more comprehensive and detailed, and because of its search software, it provides access to information not otherwise obtainable.
The aim of the Psiline Database System is to include at least a bibliographic citation, if not an abstract, of any book or article (scholarly or popular), thesis, chapter, conference proceedings paper, or separate report or monograph on parapsychology or related consciousness studies such as the mind-body relationship, healing, altered states and dissociation, consciousness-related anomalies, and relevant theoretical, methodological, and research reports on philosophical, psychological, psychiatric, religious, postmodern, and feminist approaches. Where obtainable, citations to non-English language materials are also included, if possible with English abstracts. Non-English languages included are Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Also included are relevant articles published in subject specialty journals in such fields as psychology, physics, engineering, education, philosophy, religion, psychiatry, medicine, literature, folklore, mathematics, anthropology; general science magazines. The coverage of these periodicals goes back to their first volume, if possible. We have tried also to include the best books on parapsychology from 1900 to date and some of the most relevant books from other disciplines since 1980.
We do not claim to have accomplished all we set out to do. Funding only permitted doing a portion of it. Nonetheless, the aim expressed above has been our guiding intention.
THE DATABASE SYSTEM
The Psiline Database System consists of several databases, a major one being PsiLine, which was also the first. The others were initiated for a variety of reasons: to siphon off areas that might not be of general interest, to provide searching capability of incompletely processed files, to speed searches, and to minimize cost to clients. The databases in the system and a brief description of each are as follows:
PsiLine, the largest, has the most complete records. Templine consists of documents on parapsychology that have the bibliographic information plus an abstract, but descriptors are rarely included. When the Network began to enter such journals as the Journal of Mental Imagery, Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, Omega, Journal of Altered States of Consciousness, etc., we decided to make a separate database called Contemp, which contains bibliographic citations and abstracts for each document, with occasional descriptors. When we began to process the nearly 13,000 articles we had collected from nonparapsychological journals, many of the older items as well as the general interest magazines did not have document abstracts so we created two databases, NPJP, for nonparapsychological journal articles on parapsychology without abstracts (those with abstracts go into Templine) and NPJC, for nonparapsychological journal articles on aspects of consciousness studies without abstracts (those documents with abstracts are entered in Contemp). Note: "temp" in these database titles stands for "temporary," pending having staff go back and fill in fields like the document type, language, subject descriptors, proper name identifiers, and reading level rating. Alas, there has been insufficient funding for such niceties.
Originally everything published in Parapsychology Abstracts International was entered in PsiLine. Beginning with Vol. 6, it was decided to start a separate Foreign database. Although it includes those items that are in PsiLine, the latter were not removed from PsiLine because of lack of funding.
Because some researchers have expressed interest only in recent materials, we initiated Historic, which contains items, with or without abstracts, from 1939 backward. However, funds were not available to remove 1939 and older records from the other databases.
The most important of the databases as far as this Website is concerned is also one of the largest: EHE. The EHE database consists of all the abstracts in Part 2 of Exceptional Human Experience, including the abstracts of the articles in Part 1 of each issue. As of the next issue to be published early in 2000, there are 7,806 abstracts, although at the end of 1999, about 1,000 still have to be switched to database format. These abstracts are not only of individual accounts and EHE autobiographies but methodological, survey, and theoretical articles of relevance to exceptional human experience.
The Psiline Database System takes up 52 megabytes and is IBM compatible. The text retrieval software used is an MS-DOS program called TEXTBANK produced by Computer Associates USA (formerly Group L) of Herndon, VA. The search capabilities of TEXTBANK are (1) Every word in the database is searched, with the exception of some basic stop words such as "and"; (2) Boolean searches may be run (OR, AND, NOT, or XOR). (3) Individual fields may be singled out for search (e.g., to search for J.B. Rhine as an author one would specify that the author field only is to be searched). (4) Adjacency may be specified. If one wants terms that occur within a limited proximity of one another, one can specify within the entire document or within a specific field. (5) Range searching is possible: for example, one can specify that one is only interested in documents published after or before a certain year. (6) If specific titles or phrases are sought, they make be searched by placing them inside quotations marks. In such cases, stop words are searched.
The charge for searches involves the amount of time the computer is used to search answers, sort them (if desired), and print them out. The charge is $60 per hour ($1 per minute) plus the type of printout desired (see below). The time involved in searching can vary between 1 minute and 10 minutes depending on the complexity of the request. If sorting is desired, the time involved depends on the number of answers and number of sorts. The entire process averages about 15 minutes when printed out and 5 minutes if copied to a floppy or sent by email. Editorial searches double the time. However, the most economical search method in the long run is an edited search, in which the records are scanned before printing and any irrelevant documents are deleted. This increases the search time but decreases printing time and the user's time in reading the search results. If you do not specify you want an edited search you will receive everything that comes up in the search, even if some documents do not contain anything substantial on a search topic and even if there are duplicates. The average search costs $15. If a diskette is ordered, the entire search results will be placed on the diskette, regardless of length, because the time involved in copying to the floppy is minuscule compared to printing out the search. The client pays only for the disk and postage. Disks $1.50 apiece. Again, email is the quickest and cheapest way to go for both sender and receiver.
Search results are in ASCII (text) format and can be supplied on 1.44 megabyte 3.5-inch IBM-formatted floppy diskettes For Mac users, receiving the results by email is the fastest, most economical, and only available way other than the more expensive printout, unless you have one of the newer Macs that can use IBM-formatted disks.. Three display types, at varying prices, may be ordered:
Photocopies of the document itself are available in 90% of the cases, excluding dissertations and books, but including single chapters. They may be ordered for 25 cents per photocopy page, plus postage, and $25 per hour for the time involved in locating each document, copying it, collating the copies, and returning the document to its place. (Photocopies may be ordered later, if desired.)
Members of the EHE Network are entitled to one free search for each year they belong. A search is defined as one question requiring one pass through the database system. The free searches are for the type (1) display only. If display types (2) or (3) are desired, the regular display fees will be charged, but there will be no charge for computer time. These strictures do not apply if copy is requested in the form of email or a diskette, although in the latter case a $1.50 is charged for the diskette plus first-class postage.
At this time the Psiline Database System cannot be accessed by modem, but we are hoping to make it searchable from our Website. Then people can do their own fee-based searches. The fee has not yet been determined, but it will be less than it is now when our staff has to do the searches.
The entire Psiline Database System may be leased.. If interested, please contact the EHE Network for requirements and costs. Search questions may be sent to the Network by mail, fax (252-636-8371), or email. No telephone calls, please. In order to insure that the best possible search is done, request as many copies of our search form as needed. A copy is available on our Website. Each form may be used for only one search.
We also are considering selling some of the abstracts in the database on floppy disks. People can then use their own search software or the search function of their word processors to search the text file. If there is sufficient demand, we may put the entire database on a CD, but the expense is not warranted at this time. Updates on the database will be reported in EHE News and on this Website
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please contact EHEN's Executive Director, Rhea A. White.