HeinOnline Enhances Subject Searching with New PathFinder – But Still Has a Few Bumps

HeinOnline recently introduced a new feature called PathFinder that offers more robust subject searching.  PathFinder is a multi-level subject taxonomy in which broad research concepts are divided into increasingly granular levels.  Both text and graphical interfaces are available as shown below.

PathFinder screenshot


PathFinder is available as a search option from the HenOnline Law Journal Library page or in the advanced search form.  PathFinder subjects appear in the search results, on document pages, as well as on author profile pages.

Screenshot of Pathfinder Author profile page

I really like this concept and I think it has a lot of potential to 1) provide greater context to the research process, 2) serve as a jumping-off point to find related sources, and 3) provide a quick view into a scholar’s research areas (as in the author profile screenshot above).

However, it appears that there are still some bumps to be ironed out in the assignment of PathFinder subjects.  Of the eleven articles in my author profile with PathFinder subjects assigned, over half of them are misclassified.  According to Hein, they’re using a combination of human curation along with natural language processing and machine learning, to extract the PathFinder subjects.  Looks like they could use a little help – and they’re asking for it.

In true Hein fashion of being open to corrections and suggestions for improvement, there’s an easy way to submit suggestions if something looks off.  Just click on the PathFinder icon on the top of the document for a pop-up that displays where it fits into the subject hierarchy as well as a form to suggest revisions.  It appears that anyone, including the author or a librarian, can submit subject classification suggestions.  That may be something we look at adding to our scholarly wellness checks with faculty in the future.

Screenshot of Pathfinder subject corrections page

To learn more about Hein’s PathFinder, see Hein’s blog post about it.