"The Effect of CD-ROM Instruction and Assistance on Search Operator Use," co-authored with Janice G. Newkirk. College & Research Libraries 57 (January 1996), pp.68-76.
Back in 1992 Janice Newkirk and I hypothesized that library patrons who had attended CD-ROM searching classes or who had been directly assisted by librarians would be far more sophisticated CD-ROM searchers. We wanted to know whether such assistance and instruction affects patrons' search skills, and whether the immense investment in patron assistance with CD-ROMs matters. The project involved a two-part collection of data. The first was a survey administered to library patrons using SilverPlatter CD-ROMs during selected periods. The second part involved saving each respondent's search strategy and coding it for the number of different Boolean operators, field searches, and referrals to previous search terms used. The research results indicate our hypothesis is correct, but because we found a weak positive association, additional research would need to be undertaken before we can state with resounding affirmation that CD-ROM classes and assistance help patrons.
Action Based on Results
The University at Albany continued to offer CD-ROM classes, but we changed the focus of what we were teaching in these and course-related classes, based on our scrutiny of 675 search strategies. We simplified what we taught about database searching, and in particular began to stress the importance of database selection, use of the Boolean operator "and" (rather than the frequently observed phrase searches) and the basic importance of correct spelling.
- Benefits of working with a colleague on a project.
- Possible to engage in research without being extremely knowledgeable about statistics.
- Importance of seeking funding for the project.
- Importance of managing the research project.
- Importance of informal networking when analyzing results, to gain additional viewpoints, ideas, and expertise.
- Need to be practical and realistic when developing a questionnaire.
Here is an example of how NOT to construct a questionnaire. There are far too many categories here to allow sufficient data in each category for statistical analysis. Consider what information you have to have, not what you might like to track (which was the problem in this case).
TRAINING FOR SEARCHING
14. Before searching today have you attended any of the following SUNY Albany Library instructional classes or training sessions? (check all that apply) This Semester Earlier Semester _____ _____ Yes, my class came in for a demonstration ONLY _____ _____ Yes, my class came in for a hands-on instruction taught by a librarian _____ _____ Yes, I signed up for a demo or general intro class _____ _____ Yes, I signed up for a hands-on training class _____ _____ Yes, other __________________________________________ _____ _____ No 15. Before searching have you attended any of the following at another library? (check all that apply) This Semester Earlier Semester _____ _____ Yes, demo class-specific _____ _____ Yes, hands-on taught by librarian class-specific _____ _____ Yes, general demo _____ _____ Yes, hand-on training not for a class _____ _____ Yes, other __________________________________________ _____ _____ No 16. For this or previous searching did you: (check all that apply) This Semester Earlier Semester _____ _____ Read instruction sheets explaining how to use CD-ROM _____ _____ Have direct assistance from a librarian _____ _____ Use computer tutorial to learn how to search CD-ROMs _____ _____ Have direct assistance from a friend _____ _____ Have direct assistance from a teach/teaching assistant _____ _____ None of the above Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate your assistance in our research. If you have any further comments about your experience searching or about this survey, use the back of this paper.