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Virtual reference/query log pairs: a window onto user need

Collard, Scott and Whatley, Kara M. (2011) Virtual reference/query log pairs: a window onto user need. Reference Services Review, 39 (1). pp. 151-166. ISSN 0090-7324. doi:10.1108/00907321111108178.

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Purpose: This study seeks to investigate users' virtual reference queries in concert with their search histories to better understand user needs and motivations. Design/methodology/approach: The paper initially examines one semester of data, including both search histories and user questions, from a database platform virtual reference service. These data were used to develop categories of frequently occurring search problems. One year of further data (n=90) is then coded and analyzed with these categories for problems exhibited in search histories and user questions. Findings: It was found that one‐third of users display a misunderstanding of what content they could expect to find in library databases. Users treated the databases examined as a one‐stop shop for their daily information needs. There was a positive correlation between number of databases simultaneously searched and number of searches users performed before seeking help. Additionally, it was found that users recognize when they have problems with search strategy, but they are disproportionally concerned with term selection as the cause of their trouble rather than other problems with search mechanics (i.e. Boolean operators.) Practical implications: The results of this study illustrate commonalities in users' expectations of what they may search for, find, or do in a database. It shows what tends to lead users to seek help with their searching, exposes how the systems can lead users astray, and illustrates basic misunderstandings of what content can be found in library databases. Originality/value: This study is the first virtual reference study that examines users' search histories in concert with their reference queries.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Collard, Scott0000-0001-8584-4701
Whatley, Kara M.0000-0002-5684-1875
Additional Information:© 2011 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Group:Library System Papers and Publications
Subject Keywords:Reference services; User studies; Databases; Information searches; Information services
Issue or Number:1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220518-565608400
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Collard, S. and Whatley, K. (2011), "Virtual reference/query log pairs: a window onto user need", Reference Services Review, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 151-166.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:114796
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 May 2022 16:24
Last Modified:19 May 2022 16:24

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