EEVL Xtra: The Hidden Web at Your Fingertips

Roddy MacLeod looks at the latest service from EEVL.

EEVL Xtra - In a Nutshell

EEVL Xtra [1] is an exciting new, free service which helps people find articles, books, the best Web sites, the latest industry news, job announcements, technical reports, technical data, full text eprints, the latest research, teaching and learning resources and more, in engineering, mathematics and computing.

EEVL Xtra cross-searches (hence the 'X' in Xtra) over twenty different collections/ databases relevant to engineering, mathematics and computing, and includes content from over fifty publishers and providers. EEVL Xtra doesn't simply point users towards these databases, but rather allows their content to be searched directly from the EEVL Xtra Web site. Limiting results to particular resource types is made easy via a drop-down menu which restricts results to a choice of different types of material (e.g. articles, books, industry news, etc). An 'All' category is also available, as well as advanced search options.

In all, several million documents, including articles, abstracts, eprints, books, Web sites, news items, job announcements, news items, and teaching and learning materials are indexed by EEVL Xtra. Although the reach of the popular search engines is constantly expanding, they do not index some of these resources, and do not provide such a subject perspective, hence EEVL Xtra can justifiably claim to provide access to the 'hidden web' for engineering, mathematics and computing.

EEVL Xtra is aimed at academics, researchers, students, lecturers, practising professionals and anyone else looking for information in engineering, mathematics and computing.

 screenshot (45KB) : Figure 1: Screenshot of the EEVL

Figure 1: Screenshot of the EEVL Xtra home page


In a previous issue of Ariadne [2] I reported on the results of a 2004 Web-based questionnaire about EEVL, which was completed by 364 people. As well as providing valuable feedback on the existing EEVL service, entrants were asked to rate six ideas for possible new EEVL services. Top of the list, with 80 ranking it a 'Very good idea', 113 'Good' and 107 'OK', came a proposed service which would allow searching of a range of free databases from one place. This is, essentially, what the new EEVL Xtra service now provides.


Using software developed by the Subject Portals Project [3], and using Z39.50 and OAI-PMH protocols, EEVL Xtra enables multiple databases to be queried simultaneously from one search box. The list of databases currently includes:

  • arXiv [4]
    An e-print archive database for research papers - the full text of included papers is freely available. Areas covered include physics and related disciplines, mathematics and computer science. arXiv is provided by Cornell University with support from the National Science Foundation. EEVL Xtra indexes a subset of arXive most relevant to the fields of engineering, mathematics and computing.
  • ePrints UK [5]
    This database provides access to resources from around thirty institutional open archives in the United Kingdom. Subject coverage is broad and a range of resource types (e.g. journal articles, thesis, technical reports) is covered.
  • CISTI [6]
    The CISTI (Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information) Resource Collection includes details of over 50,000 different serial titles, over 600,000 books and conference proceedings, 2 million technical reports, and journals indexed in scientific databases.
  • CSA Hot Topics [7]
    The Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA) Hot Topics series provides in-depth reports on topical engineering, mathematics and technology issues. The full text of the reports are freely available and include an overview of the issue in question, key citations with abstracts, and links to selected Web sites.
  • CiteSeer [8]
    Computer and Information Science Articles provides access to the full text of research articles in the areas of computer and information science. Over 700k documents are indexed, including PostScript and PDF research articles. Citations made by indexed documents are also listed. The CiteSeer database is provided by the NEC Research Institute.
  • Copac [9]
    Copac is a union catalogue, giving access to the merged online catalogues of 24 major university libraries in the UK, plus the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the National Library of Wales/Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru.
  • EEVL [10]
    The EEVL Best of the Web database contains descriptions of over 11,000 quality-assessed Internet resources.
  • EEVL Ejournal Search Engine (EESE) [11]
    EESE indexes the full text of over 250 freely available, full text ejournals in engineering, mathematics and computing.
  • EEVL Web site Search Engine [12]
    The EEVL Web site Search Engine harvests the full text from selected engineering, mathematics and computing Web sites and allows the actual content of these sites to be searched. In effect it acts like a conventional search engine but provides a greater level of subject focus.
  • Euclid Mathematics and Statistics Journals [13]
    The Euclid database provides access to information from over 30 journals in theoretical and applied mathematics and statistics. Some of these journals provide full text articles for free in PostScript or PDF format, others provide abstracts with the full text being available to subscribers.
  • Inderscience Journals [14]
    Inderscience is a publisher of high quality peer-reviewed international journals in the fields of engineering and technology, and management and business administration. The Inderscience database contains details of articles in these subjects, with significant coverage in the areas of automotive engineering/management; ICT; product development (including materials and manufacturing); energy, environment and sustainable development; technology management; and entrepreneurship. Access to the full text is via subscription or pay-per-view.
  • IoP Electronic Journals [15]
    The Institute of Physics Electronic Journals database allows free full text searching of the IOP electronic journals archive back to 1874. The archive includes over 172,000 articles. The search result provides an abstract with the full text article available (in PDF) to users from subscribing institutions.
  • NACA Technical Reports [16]
    The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was the predecessor organisation to NASA and was operational from 1917 until 1958. NACA produced around 30,000 technical reports, a subset of which is available in full text in PDF format from the NACA Technical Report Server.
  • NASA Technical Reports [17]
    The NASA Technical Reports collection consists of scientific and technical information aggregated from 12 NASA technical report servers. Over 500,000 technical reports are freely available. The report servers include; GENESIS (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory), NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Center for AeroSpace Information (CASI), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Kennedy Space Center, NASA Langley Research Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA Stennis Space Center, and RIACS (NASA Ames Research Center).
  • OneStep Industry News [18]
    OneStep Industry News provides access to the latest news items from a selection of engineering, mathematics and computing industry news services.
  • OneStep Jobs [19]
    OneStep Industry Jobs provides access to the latest job vacancies from a selection of engineering, mathematics and computing recruitment/job services.
  • Pearson Education - Books [20]
    This is the book catalogue of Pearson Education publishers.
  • Recent Advances in Manufacturing (RAM) [21]
    RAM is a database of bibliographic information for manufacturing and related areas. It covers over 500 niche and mainstream journals and magazines, and also includes details of books, videos and conference proceedings.
  • SearchLT Engineering description [22]
    SearchLT Engineering is a catalogue of computer-based resources suitable for learning and teaching work, with independently produced reviews on these resources.
  • zetoc - Articles & Conference Records [23]
    The database of the British Library's Electronic Table of Contents (ETOC) contains details of approximately 20,000 current journals and 16,000 conference proceedings published per year.

Several more databases are due to be added to the cross-search, providing access to information about publications from Morgan & Claypool [24], IHS [25] and Emerald [26]. As other databases become available, more will, we hope, be added in the future.

screenshot (50KB) : Figure 2: Screenshot of EEVL Xtra results summary page

Figure 2: Screenshot of EEVL Xtra results summary page

Figure 2 shows the Results Summary for a typical search in 'All' databases.

screenshot (53KB) : Figure 3: Screenshot of EEVL Xtra results page

Figure 3: Screenshot of EEVL Xtra results page

Figure 3 shows the Results page from the ePrints database for a search for 'metals'. The Results Summary (see Figure 2 above) is shown to the left of the screen.

On the EEVL Xtra home page there are several 'Xtra Extras' which link directly to some of the databases included in the cross-search, plus:

  • Free Civil Engineering Trends articles from Emerald [27]
  • Validated Engineering Design Data information from ESDU [28]
  • Free engineering newsletters from Pro-Talk [29]
  • Trade Publications free to qualified professionals [30]
  • The EEVL On-line bookstore [31]
  • The Offshore Engineering Information Service [32]
  • VTS Internet information skills tutorials [33]
  • The Internet Resources Newsletter [34]
  • The Pinakes subject launchpad [35]

The EEVL Xtra service has several limitations. The range of databases cross-searched is, so far, relatively limited, results from different databases are not de-duplicated, ranking is dependent on how results are returned to the server via external M2M links, and like all cross-search services, search features are limited. In addition, EEVL Xtra does not have the functionality provided by, for example, commercial library portal services. Despite these limitations, as a simple-to-use, free tool which does not require logging in or registration, EEVL Xtra is useful for scanning what resources are available from a number of important sources on a subject basis. Its value was recognised by the popular ResourceShelf, which made it Resource of the Week on 2 June 2005 [36].

The Xtra Team

EEVL Xtra is an initiative of Heriot Watt University.

photo (11KB) : Figure 4: The Xtra men

Figure 4: The Xtra men

Pictured above are some of the Heriot Watt staff who have worked on the EEVL Xtra service: left to right - Roddy MacLeod, Geir Granum, Santy Chumbe and Daniel Pacey. Not pictured are Malcolm Moffat and Colin Gruber, who have also contributed to the effort.

About EEVL

EEVL, the Internet guide to engineering, mathematics and computing, is a UK-based not-for-profit free guide. It was created and is run by a team of information specialists from Heriot Watt University, with input from a number of other universities in the UK, including the University of Birmingham and Cranfield University. EEVL provides academics, researchers, students, and anyone else looking for quality-assured information in engineering, mathematics and computing, with a centralised access point on the Internet.

EEVL, which is funded by JISC through the Resource Discovery Network (RDN), is available on the Web at:


  1. EEVL Xtra
  2. EEVL News: What EEVL Users Really Want , July 2004, Issue 40 July Ariadne
  3. Subject Portals Project Phase II
  4. e-Print archive
  5. ePrints-UK Service Demo
  6. Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI)
  7. CSA Hot Topics
  8. The RDN ePrints-UK Project
  9. Copac Home Page
  10. The EEVL Web site
  11. EEVL's Ejournal Search Engines
  12. EEVL Web Site Search Engine
  13. Project Euclid Home Page
  14. Inderscience Publishers
  15. CrossRef Search
  16. National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Technical Report Server
  17. NASA Technical Report Server (NTRS)
  18. EEVL OneStep Industry News
  19. EEVL OneStep Jobs
  20. Pearson Education
  21. Recent Advances in Manufacturing (RAM) Database
  22. SearchLT Engineering
  23. Zetoc - British Library's Electronic Table of Contents
  24. Morgan & Claypool Publishers
  25. IHS University Resource Centre
  26. Emerald
  27. Emerald Abstracts - Civil Engineering Trends
  28. EEVL Xtra Quick Search ESDU
  29. Pro-Talk internet publishing
  30. EEVL Trade Publications
  31. Pearson Education - EEVL On-Line Bookstore
  32. Offshore Engineering Information Service (OEIS) - Heriot-Watt University
  33. EEVL Web Tutorials: The RDN Virtual Training Suite (VTS)
  34. Internet Resources Newsletter
  35. PINAKES, A Subject LaunchPad
  36. ResourceShelf - Thursday, June 02, 2005

Author Details

Roddy MacLeod
EEVL Manager
Heriot Watt University

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Date published: 
Saturday, 30 July 2005
Copyright statement: 

This article has been published under copyright; please see our access terms and copyright guidance regarding use of content from this article. See also our explanations of how to cite Ariadne articles for examples of bibliographic format.