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Online research assistant enters virtual marketplace

Feb. 16, 2001

Questia provides full texts to students who pay for service

ANGELA BECERRA

Reporter

A new online research service called Questia is trying to distinguish itself from other research Web sites by providing more tools that make it even easier for students to write research papers.

The directors of Questia say that with their new research service, students can forget worrying about whether the library is open or if the materials they need are available or checked out -- and they will have an easier time with the accuracy of the citations and bibliography.

Users can access the Web site and search service for free, but a subscription fee is required to read the full-text of books and to use the research and writing tools. Questia offers a three-tier subscription model so users can subscribe annually for $149.95, monthly for $19.95, or short-term (48 hours) for $14.95. So far Questia reports that the expectations for the number of subscribers have already been far exceeded, but they would not disclose the exact number of current subscribers. The most popular feature has been the 48-hour trial service and subscription.

Troy Williams, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of Questia Inc., said, 'Students and faculty around the world have been frustrated by the fact that quality content, such as what is found in a library, is simply not available online today. Simply put, before today the Internet has not effectively helped students in their research.'

Houston-based Questia Inc. launched Questia on Jan. 22. Williams developed the idea while he was at Harvard Law School and began making Questia a reality after he graduated.

Most students are not new to online research. There are many free services available on the Internet that access databases and other sources for research. Two free research services currently on the Internet are www.InstantKnowledge.com and www.studentadvantage.com.

InstantKnowledge.com was launched in California in Dec. 1999. It contains 'Knowledge Notes,' a 'Cliff's Notes' type service that gives a list of books students can view with a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the story and notes that point out the prominence or importance of key passages. InstantKnowledge.com is developing a searchable database called Seek.Find. that gives users access to over a million articles and textbooks. They have not yet disclosed what the cost will be for this new service.

At studentadvantage.com, students can go to 'Academic Research' under the 'Tools' category to get help finding excerpts from writings related to their topic.

The directors and makers of the service say that what makes Questia different from existing online research services is that it is 'the first service to offer students worldwide access to a large collection of quality, credible content online to research and compose papers 24/7.'

Questia now has over 30,000 titles in the humanities and social sciences and will grow to 50,000 titles within the next month. According to Williams, most of this content has never been available online and much of it is available in print form only to a limited number of people with access to the best libraries.

Subscribers who need reliable, credible sources for their research can access many books such as The Problem Plays of Shakespeare: A Study of Julius Caesar, Measure for Measure, Antony and Cleopatra, by Ernest Schanzer, and The Supreme Court and Civil Liberties: How the Court Has Protected the Bill of Rights, by Osmond K. Fraenket and Joseph O'Meara. Questia enables subscribers to read the full-text of hyper-linked sources, automatically create footnotes and bibliographies, provides instant access to an online dictionary, thesaurus and encyclopedia, allows users to personalize text with highlighting and margin notes and to save papers online so they can access them from anywhere at any time.

Fernando Gonzalez, a sophomore from Boise, Idaho, said, 'I already use the Internet when I do research, but I'd love to use something that would speed up the process.'

'We believe that by providing students with 24-hour, unlimited access to the full text of books, Questia will encourage students to devote more time delving into their topics, consulting a wider array of resources, and formulating and articulating a thesis or argument,' Williams said.