Dissertation Information for Sandra Hirsh
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: The effect of domain knowledge on elementary school children's information retrieval behavior on an automated library catalog
Abstract: The purpose of this research was to determine the effect of domain knowledge, and other user and task characteristics, on elementary school children's search success and search behavior. System learning and retention and science hierarchy learning were also assessed to determine the effect of system use. Elementary school children with high and low domain knowledge in science twice performed assigned search tasks of varying complexity on an automated library catalog. The automated library catalog, the Science Library Catalog, provided children with two subject search options: Browse and Keyword. Data were collected through one-on-one interviews, observation of search behavior, online monitoring during search sessions, and card sorting pre- and post-tests which measured children's understanding of science hierarchies. The data from the monitoring logs were used to investigate search behavior, applying statistical techniques to evaluate transitions between search options and exploratory data analysis techniques (i.e., stair-step search plots, a Pattern Matching Program) to identify search patterns. Results found that children with high domain knowledge were more successful than children with low domain knowledge in finding book records on all tasks. More children were successful on simple-browse tasks, which provided terms that matched cataloging vocabulary in the phrasing of the task, than on complex-browse tasks. In addition, the study found that children exhibited different search styles based on their level of domain knowledge and computer experience; children with higher levels of domain knowledge or computer experience used a wider variety of search options. Children did not learn about science hierarchy from using the system, but demonstrated a learning curve in terms of search time, spending much less time searching during their second session compared to their first. The findings from this dissertation suggested the need for providing children with multiple subject search options in the design of information retrieval systems since the search options were used under different conditions.
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