Understanding the Information Research Process of Experienced Online Information Researchers to Inform Development of a Scholars Portal

Martha Whitehead, Terry Costantino

Abstract


Objective - The main purpose of this study was to understand the information research process of experienced online information researchers in a variety of disciplines, gather their ideas for improvement and as part of this to validate a proposed research framework for use in future development of Ontario’s Scholars Portal.

Methods - This was a qualitative research study in which sixty experienced online information researchers participated in face-to-face workshops that included a collaborative design component. The sessions were conducted and recorded by usability specialists who subsequently analyzed the data and identified patterns and themes.

Results - Key themes included the similarities of the information research process across all disciplines, the impact of interdisciplinarity, the social aspect of research and opportunities for process improvement. There were many specific observations regarding current and ideal processes. Implications for portal development and further research included: supporting a common process while accommodating user-defined differences; supporting citation chaining practices with new opportunities for data linkage and granularity; enhancing keyword searching with various types of intervention; exploring trusted social networks; exploring new mental models for data manipulation while retaining traditional objects; improving citation and document management.

Conclusion – The majority of researchers in the study had almost no routine in their information research processes, had developed few techniques to assist themselves and had very little awareness of the tools available to help them. There are many opportunities to aid researchers in the research process that can be explored when developing scholarly research portals. That development will be well guided by the framework ‘discover, gather, synthesize, create, share.’

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