The effect of spelling and retrieval system familiarity on search behavior in online public access catalogs: A mixed methods study

Rebekah Wilson, Lisa Given

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although technology can often correct spelling errors, the complex tasks of information searching and retrieval in an online public access catalog (OPAC) are made more difficult by these errors in users' input and bibliographic records. This study examines the search behaviors of 38 university students, divided into groups with either easy-to-spell or difficult-to-spell search terms, who were asked to find items in the OPAC with these search terms. Search behaviors and strategy use in the OPAC and on the World Wide Web (WWW) were examined. In general, students used familiar Web resources to check their spelling or discover more about the assigned topic. Students with difficult-to-spell search terms checked spelling more often, changed search strategies to look for the general topic and had fewer successful searches. Students unable to find the correct spelling of a search term were unable to complete their search. Students tended to search the OPAC as they would search a search engine, with few search terms or complex search strategies. The results of this study have implications for spell checking, user-focused OPAC design, and cataloging. Students' search behaviors are discussed by expanding Thatcher's (2006) Information-Seeking Process and Tactics for the WWW model to include OPACs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2461-2476
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Volume61
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

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