Report on user trials for a new BEI database

J.P. (Sam) Saunders, Janet Coles
2008, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. pp. 63 - 73

Abstract


Purpose: This article sets out to describe part of the design process in the construction of a new search interface for academic users of The British Education Index and to make some recommendations for interface design and subsequent user support.

Methodology: Data and experience from four user trials of a prototype version are reported and discussed in relation to a broadly constructivist conception of information literacy in practice.

Findings: There were different purposes and different levels of skill and experience among the professional users in the study. Their actions, comments and suggestions during and following the user trials suggested that the diverse information literacy practices they demonstrated could be enhanced if on-screen clarity and consistency of terminology were improved. The results suggest general recommendations about improvements to the interface and subsequent support in help pages, the web context and training sessions. Such changes can be understood as positive attempts to support and enrich the information literacy practices of research professionals by providing a better search context.

Originality and Practical Implications: The enquiry reported was a pragmatic exercise to increase the value of a planned service, informed by a theoretical assumption that the information literacy practices of the users were context-bound and specific to each individual and to the individual's purposes.

Keywords


Bibliographic databases; information retrieval; online searching; computer interfaces; human computer interfaces; user friendliness (computers); user needs (information); educational researchers

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