Bulletin, December/January 2006

What’s New?

Selected Abstracts from JASIS&T

Editor’s note: We invite JASIS&T authors to submit structured abstracts of their articles for possible inclusion in the Bulletin, particularly those that might be of interest to practitioners.

From JASIS&T v. 56 (12)

Meho, L.I., & Spurgin, K.M. (2005). Ranking the research productivity of LIS faculty and schools: An evaluation of data sources and research methods, 1314-1331.

Study and Results: This study evaluates the data sources and research methods used in earlier studies to rank the research productivity of Library and Information Science (LIS) faculty and schools.

What's New?: The study identifies both tools and methods that generate more accurate publication count rankings as well as databases that should be taken into consideration when conducting comprehensive searches in the literature for research and curricular needs. Results show:

(1)                 That there are only ten databases that provide significant coverage of the LIS indexed literature

(2)                 That restricting the data sources to one, two, or even three databases leads to inaccurate rankings and erroneous conclusions. Because no database provides comprehensive coverage of the LIS literature, researchers must rely on a wide range of disciplinary and multidisciplinary databases for ranking and other research purposes.

Limitations: The primary limitation of this study is that the lists of publications used to evaluate the databases were not compiled from a random sample of faculty members. However, any potential sources of unreliability in this study were assumed to have been alleviated by including a large number of schools and faculty members, covering publication lists spanning lengthy periods of time, and by taking into consideration all important document types and including a wide variety of research areas. The potential sources of unreliability have also been lessened by making use of data published in earlier studies and by conducting several tests on them to verify the results obtained here.

From JASIS&T v. 56 (13)

Chau, M., Fang, X., and Sheng, O. R. L. (2005). Analysis of the query logs of a website search engine, 1363-1376.

Study and Results: In this study, we analyzed the search logs of the Utah state government website to study users’ information-seeking behavior on a website search engine. Our results show that while some statistics for Web users, such as the number of search terms per query, are the same for general-purpose search engines and website search engines, other behaviors, such as the search topics and the terms used, are considerably different. Possible reasons for the differences include the focused domain of Website search engines and users’ different information needs.

What’s New? Most previous Web log analyses only focused on general-purpose search engines such as Excite and few have reported on the analysis of search logs for search engines that are limited to particular websites. Our findings are useful for website developers wishing to improve the performance of their services and for researchers conducting further research in this area.  The analysis also can be applied in e-government research by investigating how information should be delivered to users on government websites.

Limitations: As the study was conducted on a single website, more studies will be needed for generalizing the results to other domains and websites.

Kruschwitz, U. and Al-Bakour, H. (2005). Users want more sophisticated search assistants: Results of a task-based evaluation, 1377-1393.

Study and Results: This paper gives a detailed account of a task-based evaluation that compares a search system that utilizes automatically acquired domain knowledge against a standard search system. Using TREC's interactive track guidelines, we compared two search systems, 16 subjects and eight tasks. The main conclusion is that users prefer a system that can suggest query modifications over a standard search engine that simply presents a ranked list of documents.

What’s New?: Tasks such as searching, browsing and question answering  can all benefit from domain-specific knowledge. In applications such as simple search we do not need very deep knowledge structures, such as ontologies, but can get a long way with a model of the domain that consists of term hierarchies. We combine domain knowledge automatically acquired by exploiting the documents' markup structure with knowledge extracted on the fly to assist a user with ad hoc search requests. Such a search system can suggest query modification options derived from the actual data and thus guide a user through the document space.

Limitations: We restricted the evaluation to a single domain of documents, the BBC News website. Furthermore, we concentrated on difficult tasks, that is, tasks that typically involved several interactions with the search system to locate an appropriate match.

Stefl-Mabry, J. (2005). The reality of media preferences: Do professional groups vary in awareness? 1394-1404.

Study and Results: Studies in various disciplines rely upon self-report. This study examines the extent to which individuals and groups are self-aware of the judgment profiles they employ in evaluating information source scenarios. Three groups of professionals – law enforcement, medicine and education – were examined to determine if preference profiles cluster around professions or around demographic and or other background variables. Significant differences between self-perceived and empirically inferred information source preferences were associated with professional group affiliation. Law enforcement professionals demonstrated a higher level of self-awareness than educators. No association was found between perceived and inferred information source preferences based upon gender or education level.

What’s New?: Social judgment analysis (SJA) is a methodology used to identify information judgment preferences. Additionally, users’ empirical data is compared to self-reported data along the same measure. It might be hypothesized that because law enforcement professionals experience training requiring deliberate consideration of environmental cues this training affects their ability to self-assess.

Limitations: The research represents an exploratory study based on purposive samples, and therefore the findings of this study are not generalizable. Further research on more general populations to test these hypotheses in large-sample studies or in meta-analyses of other case studies with sufficient numbers will be needed.