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Tobacco industry documents: comparing the Minnesota Depository and internet access
  1. R E Malone
  1. Institute for Health Policy Studies and Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Box 0936, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, 94143, USA; rmalone{at}

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    I applaud the efforts of Balbach and colleagues1 to determine systematically what differences, if any, there are likely to be between searches conducted on tobacco industry documents websites and searches conducted at the Minnesota Depository of tobacco documents. However, I think one additional consideration is quite important for documents researchers: the fact that at the Minnesota Depository, it is possible to peruse visually through scroll-down menus the actual list of words or terms by which documents are indexed, using an interface that, to the best of my knowledge, is to date available only at the depository. This enables identification of interesting search terms that might not otherwise occur to a researcher. Both the 4A index terms and the 4B index terms are included. While the indexes themselves may be available for searching elsewhere, the interfaces available do not permit this type of direct visual examination—searching is dependent on already having a search term in mind. Given the industry's well-known use of code names, acronyms, etc. for various projects, I believe that this remains an additional reason why visits to the depository can still be helpful for researchers.