Magazine article Online

Everything Old Is New Again

Magazine article Online

Everything Old Is New Again

Article excerpt

developing effective search strategies has long been a professional concern for online searchers. In the early days of online, trainers stressed the power of Boolean logic. They explained how to visualize a research topic, find the facets that were important, and put them together into a building block, pearl growing, or successive fractions strategy. They taught us to look at descriptor terms. They taught us to order our thoughts. They taught us not to over-simplify, but not to over-complicate, either. They taught us the intricacies of formulating questions to retrieve relevant answers.

Then came the Web. Search strategy construction collapsed. Conceptualizing a topic disintegrated into "Enter your term in this search box." And that search box was much too small to accommodate sophisticated thought processes. Numerous end-user studies prove that they don't grasp the complexities of the true research process. End-users enter one or two words, regardless of the nature of their information need. They don't do a reference interview, not even with themselves.

The problem is that research issues are not diminished just because technology changes. Human thought processes remain complex. Peoples' ability to articulate their true research interests remains problematic. One person overstates the need; the next understates it: "Tell me about XYZ Corporation." "I want to know the smallest possible detail of the new product, unannounced, that XYZ Corporation is rumored to be manufacturing." Both want to know the same thing; they just can't state it properly. …

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