User Studies

North Ridge Room

Monday, July 9

10:45-12:15 PM

Presenters: Kathleen Fear, Jonathan Dorey, Heather Willever-Farr

Kathleen Fear

Visualizing a Designated Community: Network Analysis of Data Reuse at ICPSR

This paper demonstrates the use of network analysis for the purpose of exploring a designated community. ICPSR is a social science data archive dedicated to providing researchers access to quantitative social science data. The repository is structured into several subject-specific sub-archives; each topical archive has its own designated community comprised of researchers in those specific areas.

Studying the patterns of reuse of data from each of these topical archives and ICPSR as a whole allows connections between and among the individual researchers to become clear. This study explores how the many individuals who use IPCSR’s data are connected to one another. Does the structure of the actual reuser community reflect the repository’s conception of its designated community? If not, how do they differ? What are the implications of any differences between the way the repository imagines its designated community and the reality of the reuse community.

Jonathan Dorey

Today with the ubiquity of networked online sources, more and more users access archival material on the web. This raises several questions. What are users’ information seeking behaviors? How do they critically find, select, and retrieve records? Are their expectations met? To better understand these broad questions, a literature review was done to inform two specific areas of inquiry:

1. What are the factors required to increase users’ Archival Intelligence online?
2. What interface design principles can be applied to design “Archival Intelligent” websites in order to increase the level of Archival Intelligence of online users?

The purpose of this presentation is to examine these areas of inquiry through the eye of several key concepts: expertise (Duff & Johnson, 2003; Tibbo, 2003; Anthony, 2006), expectations (Yakel, 2002), education (Gracy, 2007; Hendry, 2007; Malkmus, 2008, Krause, 2010), reference (Pugh, 2005; Nardy & O’Day, 2006), and user studies (Sweeney, 2002; Duff, Craig, & Cherry, 2004; Yakel, 2004; Veale, 2009; Daniels & Yakel, 2010). Will also be presented preliminary results from phase one (see below). It is also intended to serve as a mechanism for gathering feedback to inform the design of a methodology in order to further refine and investigate these broad research questions. The goal is to determine if these concepts can help propose new ways of designing archival web interfaces in order to achieve the conditions necessary to recreate offline research done in a web environment. This is the first step towards a broader doctoral program that will seek to extend, expand, and test Archival Intelligence, an information behavior model proposed by Yakel and Torres (2003), and focus on the elements required to foster self-directed learning when accessing archival websites to conduct historical research.

Up until the mid 1980s and early 1990s, the preservation of historical records, and not access to those records, was the main priority. The lack of pragmatic or scholarly research about users was noted early on by Freeman (1984) and Joyce (1984) and prompted Conway (1986) to propose a framework to study archival users. Conway’s framework and a growing interest in studying users lead to the questioning of archives use (Dearstyne, 1987), rethinking reference archivists’ education (Ruth, 1988) and redefining archival identity (Jimerson, 1989). It also served as ground for research on and about users and launched the era of user studies in archival science. This framework will serve as the basis upon which the three phases of this doctoral study will be built.

Phase one, of a multi-phased study, will look at Canadian and American archives websites to determine how they address the three dimensions of AI, replicating and expanding Bromley (2010)’s content analysis methodology. Subsequent phases currently planed may include in-depth interviews of a randomized sample of novice students to determine what are their expectations of an archival website as well as a controlled experiment with two groups of students to assess the impact of new design guidelines on their search experience and their general understanding of archival search and archival records.

Heather Willever-Farr

According to the PEW Internet and American Life Project, 54 million Americans belong to a family where someone in the family has used the Internet to research their family history. This is not surprising given the growing amounts of family history data that have been digitized, indexed, and made available on the web. To support the large numbers of family history researchers (FHRs) who are online, web-based Q&A forums have cropped up for those who are seeking and sharing family history information. While the use of family history Q&A forums is wide-spread, relatively little is known about the interactions among users of these forums. Existing literature on amateur FHRs’ information behaviors has only touched upon this phenomenon, leaving a vague picture of FHRs’ interactions on the web. In addition, no known study of Q&A websites and user behavior explores the interactions of FHRs.

This study examined exchanges between FHRs on a public Q&A message board on Ancestry.com. Content and message thread analyses were employed to characterize messages posted by askers and answers. Existing typologies taken from previous Q&A website studies and library reference studies were used to develop an initial list of coding categories. Code refinement was carried out iteratively, with additional codes being identified and codes that did not adequately represent posts being replaced. In addition, frequency data was collected and analyzed.

Study results suggest that the web context shapes the types of exchanges and cooperative activities in which FHRs engage. Previous research on the information behaviors of those engaged in family history research found that in face-to-face exchanges, FHRs tend to help other FHRs by providing instructional guidance both on a one-to-one and a many-to-one basis. This study found, however, that only a small number of the exchanges between users involved instruction.  Askers on the studied message board rarely requested answerers to provide instructional help or information on where to find data, rather they asked for the family data outright. In turn, most answerers provided factual data without instructional information. This finding suggests that askers appear to expect data provision from answerers, not “how to” or “where to” answers, and that due to the increasing availability of online data about deceased persons and the affordances of interactive technologies, it has become more feasible for answerers to provide family data in response to such asker requests. The majority of data provided in the answers appeared to be drawn from web sources, with over 50% of the answers appearing to be drawn from Ancestry.com’s pay-for-access databases.

These findings raise questions about archival reference services and whether such services are aligned with patron expectations in the web environment.  The study also suggests that memory institutions can further support history-oriented communities of practice, such as FHRs, by providing web platforms for social information sharing.  Additionally, as public records are placed behind paywalls on popular  websites, like Ancestry.com, questions about the public’s right to access records are raised and more dialogue in the archives community about records provision arrangements with for-profit companies is warranted.

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