ASIS&T 2013 Annual Meeting 
Montral, Qubec, Canada | November 1-5, 2013

Information-Seeking Behaviors of Computer Scientists: Challenges for Electronic Literature Search Tools

Kumaripaba Athukorala, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology
Eve Hoggan, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology
Anu Lehtio, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology
Tuukka Ruotsalo, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology
Giulio Jacucci, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology

Monday, 8:00am


Since the recent emergence of electronic journals, databases, and literature search tools, researchers have begun to adopt new literature searching practices. The purpose of this research is to investigate the information needs and searching behaviors of computer scientists, and their implications for electronic literature search tools. We conducted mixed-method case studies involving interviews, diary logs, and observations of the computer scientists at three academic levels; PhD, post-doctoral, and senior researchers. We also conducted a web-based survey to validate the findings of the case studies. We found two primary categories for scientific information-seeking: teaching and researching. We further found four purposes that motivate researching (keeping up to date, exploring new topics, reviewing literature, and collaborating) and two search purposes connected to teaching (preparing lectures, recommending material for students) that determine information-seeking behaviors of computer scientists. Our results showed that keeping up to date with research is the most frequent purpose and exploring unfamiliar research areas is the most difficult. Further, a behavior common to all computer scientists is the frequent use of search tools to find articles that they have found before. We also found that literature searching is a collaborative process and, depending on the purpose guiding the search, different information sources and navigation strategies are used. On the basis of these findings we discuss six design challenges for literature search tools, which are: providing support for keeping up to date with research, exploring unfamiliar topics, browsing user history, collaborating and sharing, performing federated searches that go beyond scholarly research, and sorting and navigating the results.