Bibliographic database searching by graduate students in language and literature: Search strategies, system interfaces, and relevance judgments

  • Shaw D
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Graduate students in language and literature studies were observed as they searched CD-ROM databases. Their search strategies were typical of humanities scholars, who create large sets and review records quickly to select relevant items. Some 1,287 relevance assessments were observed, based most often on the subject/topic of the bibliographic record, with the title and index terms the most frequently used sources of information. Language, source of publication, author, and length of work (with longer materials preferred) as well as previous exposure to a citation all influenced relevance assessments. The Wilsondisc browse and multiterm search options supported query refinement and rapid review of items retrieved, but the option to conduct a search in another tile led to confusion in the LAN (local area network) environment. Participants especially appreciated electronic access to the Modern Language Association (MLA) International Bibliography but encountered problems with the controlled vocabulary and analytic entries for books and proceedings.

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  • Deborah Shaw

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