AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

Searching with Tags: Do Tags Help Users Find Things?

Margaret E.I. Kipp

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


Summary

In traditional library classifications, the classifier was a professional cataloguer or indexer. Collaborative tagging systems such as CiteULike (http://www.citeulike.org) allow users to participate in the classification of journal articles by encouraging them to assign useful labels to bookmarked articles. The following study explores the usefulness of a classification system for enabling retrieval by performing an information retrieval study on CiteULike, a social bookmarking system, and Pubmed, an online database, to study the usefulness of tags in the support of information retrieval. A preliminary study was conducted using volunteer searchers. Participants are currently being recruited to continue the study.

Participants selected their own keywords for searches on both tools. The search topic was provided as a paragraph describing an information need. Participants were asked to select 5 articles from each tool that they felt met the information need. Screen capture software, a think aloud protocol and an exit interview were used to capture the impressions of the users when faced with traditional classification or user tags and their usefulness in the search process.

Preliminary results from the study show that users tended to prefer the search experience on the system used first, regardless of previous experience with either system. All users used multi word keywords initially, which is unsurprising as they are in training to be librarians. At the end of the search process, when users were asked to generate a new list of keywords they would now use for the search, a majority of the users separated their list of final keywords by tool. Users used between 3-5 keywords initially and suggested 4-5 keywords for CiteULike use and 1-4 for Pubmed. Users did use the tags to aid in the search process, selecting tags to see what articles would be returned.


  
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