April 12th, 2005

searchtools.com

Carol Tenopir - What We Know About User Behavior (And What We Are Not So Sure Of)

Infonortics Search Engines Meeting
Carol Tenopir - What We Know About User Behavior (And What We Are Not So Sure Of).

Concentrating on students and academics, a great overview of all the user information research and search studies from the last ten years. She compared the three main types of studies: analyzing usage logs, surveys of opinions and experience, and "critical incident" review, where the user explains their last search in detail, what they wanted, and whether they were satisfied with the results. Usability tests can supplement this. Longitudinal studies give trends, and critical incident review to get a clear picture of how people work.

She described beginning students (middle-school, high-school, lower-division undergraduates) majority behavior: among other things, they value simplicity and speed, and have a mental model of search based around the search box.

Subject experts vary strongly by discipline, so there's no one perfect information system for all of them. They use more resources in the past, including more journals, and both browse and search (search use is increasing), and value both convenience and quality.