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Tagging and Findability: Do Tags Help Users Find Things?

Margaret Kipp

(Submission #99)


This study looks at the use of tags as an aid to findability. In essence, this is an examination of some of the questions of classic information retrieval research in a new context. Proponents of tagging often suggest that tags could provide at worst an entry vocabulary for traditional classification systems and at best a complete replacement for such systems. One method for judging the usefulness of a classification system for enabling retrieval is to perform an information retrieval study on the system with volunteer searchers.

In all studies examining information retrieval systems using keyword or index term searches, there is an implicit evaluation of the effectiveness of classification terms. In evaluating classification terms, it is important to evaluate not only the retrieval effectiveness of the search term, in terms of how many relevant documents were retrieved, but also in terms of how long it took the user to think of using this term in this context and whether or not the user thought the term was appropriate or useful for the document.

One way to examine the potential uses of tags in the search process would be to compare the search experience between social bookmarking tools and other methods of information retrieval such as retrieval via controlled vocabulary or retrieval via free text search.

This study asks the following questions: Do tags appear to enhance findability? Do users feel that they have found what they are looking for? How do users find searching social bookmarking sites compared to searching more classically organised sites? Do users think that tags assigned by other users are more intuitive? Do tagging structures facilitate information retrieval? How does this compare to traditional structures of supporting information retrieval?


[Paper (PDF)]  

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