|dc.description.abstract||In the present time of information overload, assistance of professional information specialists upon searching quality information on the Internet is needed more than ever before. Human labour cannot yet be replaced by any technology because technology is not able to understand the content, assess its quality or find links between different data sources. To that end, qualified people are needed who can manage the process of satisfying the need for information by using their information literacy.
This master thesis includes a scientific article written in cooperation with Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, head of the Institute of Journalism and Communication of the University of Tartu (UT), Georg Singer, a doctoral student and Ulrich Norbisrath, a senior researcher of the Institute of Computer Science of the University of Tartu, and Krista Lepik, a librarian of the Library of the University of Tartu and a doctoral student of the Institute of Journalism and Communication of the University of Tartu. The article were presented at the Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries International Conference, QQML held in Athens in May 2011. A revised article based on the material used in the thesis will be published in the nearest future. Empirical material of the article was collected in the finals of the Estonian information search competition “Information search on the Internet” that took place in the Library of the University of Tartu in October 2010, involving ten information specialists from Estonian libraries, museums and archives. The article gives an overview of how professional information specialists search information on the Internet and what kind of search strategies they use.
The author analysed in depth the used search strategies and looked into the relationship between the strategies and the types of internet users. The author also analysed the participants´ assessments of the tasks before and after completing them and the time spent on completing the tasks. Collecting and analysing the material was based on a unique method in which the qualitative material obtained by means of log files was linked to the quantitative results.
The Internet search strategies were divided into two main groups – the known address strategies and the search engine strategies. According to the article included in this work, in most of the cases (94%) search engine strategies were used, known-address strategies were used only in a few cases (6%). Consequently, in case of complex exploratory search tasks like those included in our experiment, there is a higher need for search engines, whereas known internet addresses can be used less frequently. At the same time, the searcher´s previous personal knowledge and experience become more important.
It appeared that in case of complex exploratory search tasks, one needs to approach the task by making a generalisation and trying to find a common denominator or category and, thereafter, become more specific and find the answer. Usually, one has to use different strategies and try out many search words. Use of only one strategy and search of information by using only the words or data given in the task and a lack of a general structure is often the case with less successful information searches.
Based on the information collected in our experiment, it can be assumed that younger people enter more search words, use more strategies and the number of their searches is higher than that of the older people. At the same time, using a higher number of strategies and searches does not necessarily ensure better results. The number of strategies and searches used by the best competitor was one of the lowest among the participants. This proves, once more, that the most important thing about a successful information search on the Internet is information literacy as well as previous experience and wide horizon.
With regard the time spent on answering different questions, it appeared that the more complicated is the question and the more alternative answers it has, the more time it takes to search the information. While trying to analyse the reasons for the adequate evaluations of the time spent by competitors on completing the tasks, the author is of an opinion that experience in the Internet use has an important role here while compiled with a more active and versatile type of the Internet user. The more previous experience in the Internet use a person has, the more adequate he or she can assess the abilities of searching and finding information in the Internet.
The analysis of internet user types showed that the participants with the best two results are active and versatile internet users in their everyday life, i.e. they are very frequent internet users and use all available service groups (information, communication, entertainment, involvement). The two participants with the lowest scores are infrequent users and more focused on searching practical information. It is therefore to conclude that information literacy is very important in order to be successful in searching information on the Internet. The more active and wider is the use of various options available on the Internet, the more experienced a person is in the information search and the more successful (faster, more effective) is the information search and problem solving on the Internet.
The analysis of the participants´ assessments showed that easier questions did not necessarily mean that the questions were indeed easy for the participants. Even with the questions for which all
participants earned points, before a search, one-third of the respondents regarded finding an answer not easy, one-third easy and one-third could not tell whether it would be easy or difficult to find the answer. After the search, almost everyone thought that finding an answer was not more difficult than what they had thought before. With the complicated questions, the respondents who gave correct answers were not themselves certain that they had been correct. While with easier questions, the participants changed their opinion about the difficulty level of the question after the answer had been found, i.e. at first the question was thought to be difficult and then easy, with more complicated questions, the difficulty level was considered the same in most cases, i.e. not easy before and after the search.
In summing up the participants´ assessments, it can be said that the assessments were generally quite adequate. There were only few cases (18 to 22 cases of the total of 150) where finding an answer was considered easy and the amount of time spent on it low and many cases (41 to 48 cases, i.e. nearly one-third of the total of 150) where after the search a task was considered more complicated than expected and the amount of time spent on completing the task higher than expected.
A relationship between assessments of the tasks and internet user types became evident. It appeared that the more active and versatile was the internet user, the more inadequate assessments were given to the tasks, i.e. there were more situations where after a search a question was regarded to be more complicated and time-consuming than before it. The participants who use the Internet less or are entertainment-oriented users were not so confident about their assessment or rather regarded a question more complicated or time-consuming from the beginning. This could be explained by the fact that more active, versatile and experienced internet users usually manage to find information easily and quickly but this experiment included complicated complex tasks that often cannot be solved so quickly.
Last but not least, the author compiled a list of suggestions for improving information search on the Internet based on the results obtained from the work. Some explanatory questions are of assistance.
1. Define the problem and information need
o Which general or common denominator characterises your problem/information need the best?
o Formulate your information need as precisely and briefly as possible!
2. Determine the resources
o What are the potential sources of the information?
o What are the potential strategies for fining information (for example, search engine catalogue, search term function of a search engine, a known address etc.)?
3. Information search or eliminating unsuitable options
o Try previously determined search strategies and information sources!
o Reformulate your search terms and/or question, try to specify or generalise them, use accurate synonyms!
4. Assess the relevance and quality of the found information
o Did you find a solution to your problem?
o Was the solution satisfactory or a new search is needed?||en