AM Posters 2009 START Conference Manager    

Searching with Tags: Do Tags Help Users Find Things?

Margaret E.I. Kipp

(Submission #106)


This study examines the question of whether tags can be useful in the process of information retrieval. All information retrieval studies using controlled vocabulary searches contain an implicit evaluation of the effectiveness of classification terms. In such an evaluation it is important to evaluate not only the retrieval effectiveness of the search term, but also 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 useful and accurate. One way to examine the potential uses of tags in the search process is 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. Participants were asked to search a social bookmarking tool specialising in academic articles (CiteULike) and an online journal database (Pubmed) in order to determine if users found tags were useful in their search process. The actions of each participants were captured using screen capture software and they were asked to describe their search process. The preliminary study showed that users did indeed make use of tags in their search process, as a guide to searching and as hyperlinks to potentially useful articles. However, users also made use of controlled vocabularies in the journal database to locate useful search terms and of links to related articles supplied by the database.


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