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An assessment of stereotypical models of on-line searching behaviour: End-users - Case study: Practitioners (politicians and journalists)

Nicholas, D. A. R. (1995). An assessment of stereotypical models of on-line searching behaviour: End-users - Case study: Practitioners (politicians and journalists). (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The purpose of this study was to determine what the searching characteristics of end-users in a non-academic environment (practitioners) were and to discover whether these characteristics were those that are ascribed to end-users in the professional literature and folklore, and whether they differed materially from those of information professionals working in the same fields. Searching characteristics were interpreted in their widest sense to include: volume and frequency of use, when searches were done, file selection, use of system commands, types of search, searching strategies, searching behaviour, user satisfaction, obstacles to searching, willingness to delegate and levels of training. These characteristics were related to the information needs and information seeking behaviour of the end-users involved. These issues were explored in relation to two practitioner groups - journalists at The Guardian newspaper, and politicians at The House of Commons. Comparisons were made throughout with the respective Library staff in these two institutions.

A mixture of social and statistical methods were used to monitor end-user and professional searching in the two environments examined, though much of the analysis relies upon transactional log analysis. The period of study largely covered the years 1989-1995, though historical data for the journalists went back to the mid-eighties.

The principal findings of the study were as follows: politicians and journalists had much in common in respect to their on-line searching behaviour; in some respects end-users did conform to the picture that information professionals have of them: they did search with a very limited range of commands, more of their searches produced zero hits, and search statements were simple in construction. But in other respects they confound that image - they can be very quick and economical searchers, and they certainly did not display metres and metres of print-out. However, there were big variations between individual end-user groups, and it was often possible to find a end-user group that matched a information professional group on one aspect of on-line searching or another. The on-line behaviour of end-users was very much related to two factors: (1) their general information seeking behaviour; and, (2) the fact that they were not trained. There was a strong desire on the part of end-users to do their own searching and large volumes of searching were achieved, despite the fact that both groups of end-users had big obstacles put in their way: the twin high hurdles of poor access and limited training. Finally, great differences were found in the way in-house and dial-up users searched on-line systems.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources > ZA4050 Electronic information resources
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science
School of Science & Technology > School of Science & Technology Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Nicholas thesis 1995 PDF-A.pdf]
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