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Dissertation Information for Nancy Newman Woelfl

- Nancy Newman Woelfl

- Ph.D.

- Library and Information Science

- Case Western Reserve University (USA) (1984)

- Tefko Saracevic

- Richard L. Derr
- Miranda Pao
- David Kolb

MPACT Status: Fully Complete

Title: Individual differences in online search behavior: the effect of learning styles and cognitive abilities on process and outcome

Abstract: Studies of online bibliographic retrieval indicate that there are considerable differences in the way that individual searchers conduct an online bibliographic search and in the results they obtain. Until recently, these differences were assumed to be the result of training and experience account for only limited amounts of the observed variation in search behavior.

This experiment was designed to test the assumption that differences in search behavior are the result of differences in cognitive ability. The experiment used five measures of search- related effort --- connect time, commands used, cycles completed, descriptors keyed, and references printed -- and two measures of search results -- recall and precision -- to describe the conduct and outcome of 76 MEDLINE searches, performed by 44 subjects who searched the same four questions. These seven search-related variables were correlated with eight cognitive variables derived from three cognitive measures: the Learning Style Inventory, the Remote Associates Test, and the Symbolic Reasoning Test.

The Learning Style Inventory (LSI) is a self-descriptivetest that is based on experiential learning theory, a process model of human cognition. The LSI was used to determine which of four learning modes (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation) an individual emphasized in dealing with the cognitive demands of his environment.

The Remote Associates Test (RAT) and Symbolic Reasoning Test (SRT) are objective tests that were selected to measure specific cognitive abilities derived from Guilford's structure of the intellect model. The RAT measured a subject's ability to infer the missing members of word sets, an ability that can be more broadly defined as the ability to make inductive inferences, and which may be involved in descriptor selection. The SRT measured a subject's ability to evaluate symbolic statements, an ability that can be more broadly defined as the ability to make deductive inference, and which may be involved in the use of Boolean logic. The purpose of using measures derived from two different models of human cognition was to compare and evaluate several frameworks for conceptualizing human cognitive attributed and the degree to which each would predict systematic patterns of search behavior.

The results of the experiment indicate that some variability in search behavior does result from cognitive differences among online bibliographic searchers. Systematic patterns of search behavior were associated with both the self-descriptive and objective measures used in this experiment. Subjects who emphasized the learning mode reflective observation invested more effort in their searches than subjects who emphasized any of the other three modes of learning. Conversely, subjects who emphasize active experimentation invested less effort in their searches. While neither reflection nor action had a direct effect on recall, they did have an indirect effect. Subjects who were highly reflective tended to use more commands and print more references, thereby improving their chances of retrieving relevant references. Individuals who were highly active tended to conduct very abbreviated searches, thereby reducing theirs.

The ability to make deductive inferences had a direct effect on both search behavior and on search results. The higher a subject scored on the Symbolic Reasoning Test, the greater the ease with which he searched. Subjects who scored high on the SRT used less connect time, fewer commands, and fewer descriptors than subjects who did not. They also organized their searches differently, pursing strategies that were highly focused and often completing their searches in a single cycle. Despite lower levels of effort, these subjects still managed to retrieve greater numbers of relevant references.

Given that systematic patterns of search behavior were associated with both forms of measurement and their underlying theories of human cognition, the findings of this study suggest that both process and structural models of human cognition could eventually be used to design behavioral interventions aimed at optimizing search behavior.

MPACT Scores for Nancy Newman Woelfl

A = 0
C = 0
A+C = 0
T = 0
G = 0
W = 0
TD = 0
TA = 0
calculated 2008-04-09 13:38:45

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