Searching ProQuest Content on the Open Web

ProQuest's platform enhancements that make subscription and open access content readily searchable on the open web reveals a volume and variety of source material of benefit to students, teachers and the general public.

In mid-June 2020, ProQuest announced that it was making enhancements to its platform that would improve the accessibility of subscription and open access content. It’s no real secret that most people, whether they are students, faculty or the general public, go first to the open web to find information. This is true even when they have access through their library to subscription databases from companies like ProQuest. This preference is probably increasing during these times of working from home and home schooling.

To see how this works, use the URL You can search on all the content or limit your search to scholarly journals, books, video & audio, or newspapers. Click on the More tab to further limit your search to 13 additional sources, including historical newspapers, magazines, trade journals, reports, wire feeds, working papers and government publications. Included in the search are almost a billion documents.

Once you’ve done a search, you can sort results by relevance, oldest first, or most recent first and limit by date. Additionally, you can preview the content (assuming that a preview is available, which it is not for all content, particularly for historical newspapers). Keep in mind that the preview might not be text; it could be 30 seconds of video, since there are different levels of preview. If the publication is OA, you will see the designation Full Text to the right of the citation. Click on the citation and you are redirected to the site hosting the full text. For example, a result from a Working Paper in Economics redirected me to RePec.

Prominent in several places on the site is the admonition that searchers can get more features if they log into their library’s site. To the extent possible, ProQuest wants to direct people to their local libraries. If searchers find something on the open web ProQuest platform that doesn’t include the full text, they can log into their library and come back to the full text. This assumes, of course, that their library has a subscription to the full text.

Jeff Wilensky, VP of Global Marketing, and Chris Burghardt, VP of Product Management, pointed out to me that the content included on the platform was not the licensed databases sold by ProQuest to libraries. Instead, it is content licensed from publishers. If you access documents via your library, they told me, you then have the option of translating the article into 20 different languages. For those not affiliated with an institution, ProQuest’s only solution is to sign up for a library card at your local public library and hope they have a ProQuest subscription.

Streamlining discoverability to ProQuest content by eliminating, at least to some extent, the dreaded paywall is a huge benefit. As Wilensky and Burghardt see it, this enhanced platform is a fusion of subscription and OA, bringing together remote learning and direct web entry. Plus, the volume and variety of discoverable information types can be eye-opening to web searchers. It provides ProQuest with a higher degree of web indexing than it previously had. These days, if you’re not indexed by web search engines, it’s akin to not existing at all. And ProQuest most definitely exists.