Understanding the NCSTL Database

What is the NCSTL database?

The NCSTL database is designed to be “one-stop-shopping” for information related to the nexus of science, technology and the law. It is a collection of thousands of bibliographic records for forensic and criminal justice related resources. These bibliographic records provide you with an abstract for each item, as well as all the information you or your librarian will need to find that item, including the URL to the full text of the item whenever it is available online.

How is the NCSTL database useful?

The NCSTL database is useful for anyone who has to find literature or media resources about a forensic related topic. Whether you are a lawyer preparing for a case that includes scientific evidence, a scientist preparing an in-court presentation, or an academic doing research on a forensic topic, the NCSTL database will be useful in tracking down relevant background reading, as well as media and educational presentations.

Is the NCSTL database a search engine?

Not really, but that depends on what you mean by search engine. It is not a search engine in the popular sense of the word. The NCSTL database is a collection of bibliographic records created by the NCSTL staff. You search that database with what some people would call a search engine. But if you are talking about a search engine like Google, then the answer is no.

But doesn’t the NCSTL database search the web for forensic-related material?

No. The NCSTL professional research staff searches for resources that relate to any one of our forensic or criminal justice related topics. Staff members look at every research result item and create a database record for each. Every item is assigned to a topical category by a human being with human judgment. The abstracts in the NCSTL databases are real synopses of the items, not just a few lines from the top of a web page.

Thus, the web (among other information resources) is searched by a professional researcher to prepare the database. You reap the benefits of having had someone else do the initial research for you.

Why is the NCSTL database better than a regular search engine?

The NCSTL database is better than a regular search engine when you want to do research in one of NCSTL’s forensic related topics. Professional researchers have scoured available information to locate the newest and best information related to those topics. Additionally, they have prepared abstracts of the information they find to let you know what the item will contain.

All you have to do is take a look at what they’ve found. You don’t have to sift through hundreds of thousands of hits from a search engine search to locate the most relevant items. You can limit your searching to particular topics and types of resources. Best of all, you get a quick nutshell of each item’s contents.

What types of information does the NCSTL database contain?

The NCSTL database collects and distributes bibliographic information on thousands of court decisions, pieces of legislation, legal and scientific publications, news and media features, websites and educational opportunities. View the list of topics and resources found in the NCSTL database.

Does the NCSTL database contain full text of documents?

No. Think of the NCSTL database as a great big library catalog, with the library being the world of available forensic/criminal justice information. NCSTL includes abstracts describing documents, finding information for documents, and URLs to the text of documents, but it does not include the full text itself.

The first step to finding the full text of a document that you located by using NCSTL is to click on the URL in the record. If the document is freely available online, the URL should take you straight to it. Sometimes documents are available online, but for a fee. The URL link will be to information about how to buy the document. In all cases, your chosen document’s record will contain enough information for your librarian to be able to borrow the item for you through Interlibrary Loan.

Database Topics Defined