Monday, May 16, 2011

Information Visualization and Keyword Searching in Library Instruction

Matt Conner and Melissa Browne, University of California, Davis
May 7, 2011
2011 LOEX Conference

Download the Powerpoint Presentation
Visual Literacy is the ability “to produce and consume images.” Matt Conner and Melissa Browne promote the concept of Information Visualization, which “represents data with visual designs that assist comprehension and insight.” To illustrate the connection between vision and cognition, Conner used the example of the blind who have had their vision surgically restored, but are unable to process what they see (reminded me of the movie At First Sight).

Undergraduate Search Behavior
  • Search strategies: Undergrads use either single word or long natural-language search statements. This works in Google, but not in most library databases. Undergrads also use the same tools and strategies regardless of the information need.
  • Reading habits: Most students don’t read articles thoroughly, but prefer to skim.
  • Cues: Students also prefer to look at sources with more “graphical/visual representations.”

Their conclusion: “It’s more difficult than ever for students to translate subject knowledge into appropriate search strategies for scholarly research!” Their hypothesis: “Information visualization techniques improve students’ abilities to conceptualize topics and generate terms for academic online research.” Conner and Browne are currently conducting a study with Undergraduates to test this hypothesis

3 Pedagogies
  1. Keyword matrix: This keyword matrix is a little different than what I have used in the past. In this matrix the topic goes in the middle row and the student brainstorms general terms in the top row and more specific terms in the bottom row.
  2. Google’s Wonder Wheel: I’ve used the Wonder Wheel for concept mapping and development of research topics, but I haven’t tried it for keyword generation.
  3. EBSCO’s Visual Search: An alternative to the traditional search results display, Visual Search helps to narrow results with an emphasis on subject headings. Ebsco is one of the the few database providers that offer a visual search option. For my own research, I prefer the traditional view, but this presentation inspired me to try out the visual search option with students.

The Study
The presenters are currently conducting a study of the three pedagogies. As of the presentation, only about a third of the results have been analyzed. The following results are based on the data analyzed as of the presentation.
  • How students generate search terms: 1. Google 2. The topic itself 3. Course materials
  • The most difficult part of research: 1. Credibility 2. Narrowing (Information overload) 3. Relevance

Preliminary results of the study reveal:
  • No significant difference in the number of search attempts.
  • No significant difference in time spent searching.
  • Students “expressed great enthusiasm” for the term-generating tools.

Conner and Browne also made the following observations.
  • “Students did not rely on keywords.”
  • Students reacted to information. They used links instead of keywords to further their search.
  • “Adapted results to fit preconceived pattern for paper.”
  • “Wide variation is search strategies.” Examples of search strategies include “termers,” who frequently modify their search strategies, and “limiters,” who rely on database limiters to modify searches. Students were not using advanced search strategies such as phrase searching or truncation.
  • “Student’s assessment of search success did not match always match the investigator’s assessment.”

Based on the preliminary findings, the Conner and Browne state that “Information visualization techniques appear to help students with conceptualizing topics but don’t really impact keyword search strategies.”

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