Smoothing the information seeking path: Removing representational obstacles in the middle school digital library environment
June Marie Abbas, University of North Texas, United States
University of North Texas . Awarded
Middle school student's interaction within a digital library is explored. Issues of interface features used, obstacles encountered, search strategies and search techniques used, and representation obstacles are examined. A mechanism for evaluating user's descriptors is tested and effects of augmenting the system's resource descriptions with these descriptors on retrieval is explored.
Transaction log data analysis (TLA) was used, with external corroborating achievement data provided by teachers. Analysis was conducted using quantitative and qualitative methods. Coding schemes for the failure analysis, search strategies and techniques analysis, as well as extent of match analysis between terms in student's questions and their search terms, and extent of match analysis between search terms and controlled vocabulary were developed.
There are five chapters with twelve supporting appendixes. Chapter One presents an introduction to the problem and reviews the pilot study. Chapter Two presents the literature review and theoretical basis for the study. Chapter Three describes the research questions, hypotheses and methods. Chapter Four presents findings. Chapter Five presents a summary of the findings and their support of the hypotheses. Unanticipated findings, limitations, speculations, and areas of further research are indicated.
Findings indicate that middle school users interact with the system in various sequences of patterns. User groups' interactions and scaffold use are influenced by the teacher's objectives for using the ADL. Users preferred to use single word searches over Boolean, phrase or natural language searches. Users tended to use a strategy of repeating the same exact search, instead of using the advanced scaffolds. A high percent of users attempted at least one search that included spelling or typographical errors, punctuation, or sequentially repeated searches. Search terms matched the DQ's in some instantiation 54% of all searches. Terms used by the system to represent the resources do not adequately represent the user groups' information needs, however, using student generated keywords to augment resource descriptions can have a positive effect on retrieval.
Abbas, J.M. Smoothing the information seeking path: Removing representational obstacles in the middle school digital library environment. Ph.D. thesis, University of North Texas.
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