Research

The broad goals of my research are to: advance our understanding of how technology can serve human information needs; enable more effective and equitable access to access information; and help educate information professionals. My research accomplishments fall in two broad areas:

  • Technology in information science education
  • Human-computer interaction and information retrieval (HCIR)

Technology in information science education

My research in the educational area is motivated by and grounded in the practical needs of educators and the imperative to improve learning environments and outcomes for our students. It serves the twin goals of providing guidance for practitioners and advancing our theoretical understanding of teaching and learning with and about technology.

LIS program technology expectations of incoming students – Within library and information science (LIS) education, programs are becoming more technically demanding in response to technological changes. Programs face an important challenge in the diverse technology backgrounds and competencies of incoming students. Students without adequate preparation may experience difficulty when confronted with topics such as web page creation, relational databases, and systems analysis. There is, however, very little information available on the technical knowledge and skills that students need to have as they enter an LIS program to be successful. My research in this area suggested that there are few common expectations regarding technology competencies between programs, and proposed a set of 29 technical competencies that students need for success in an LIS program. In addition to advancing scholarship, these results provided practical guidance for our program and others as we revised our curriculum and developed student support resources.

Human-computer information retrieval (HCIR)

I conduct research in Human-Computer Information Retrieval (HCIR), which is at the nexus of two established fields of research: Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Information Retrieval (IR). HCIR examines the complex forms of information seeking that people engage in for real-world learning and problem solving, often with complex or ill-defined goals. I have examined several areas within HCIR:

Exploratory search – I study how faceted search interfaces support complex information seeking tasks like exploratory search. In an exploratory search, searchers may have evolving information needs, may be unfamiliar with what they are looking for, and may need to conduct exhaustive or ongoing searches on evolving topics.

Faceted search interfaces for library catalogs – Exploratory search needs are not well-supported by traditional online library catalogs. Faceted search interfaces can address these needs by incorporating clickable categories into search results so searchers can narrow and browse the results without retyping their query.

Gaze behavior and faceted search – I have explored the application of eye-tracking techniques to examine searchers’ gaze behavior (what parts of the display they look at) and see how the availability of facets affects their behaviors. I’ve found that facets play an important role in the exploratory search process and also that searcher use of interface elements varies by the stage of their search during the session.

Older adult health information seeking and facet use – I have studied how older adults use the Medline Plus faceted search interface to find health-related information. Facets accounted for approximately 20-30% of what searchers looked at (fixation counts and total fixation duration), as well as approximately 30% of clicks on the search page. Searchers also appeared to use the facets more for more severe health conditions.  

Previous Projects

Categorized Overviews using the SERVICE system

My dissertation research investigated the use of classifications to organize meaningful overviews of web search results. This permits users to more effectively explore search results through interactive filtering and navigation. A comparative evaluation of the SERVICE prototype confirming that it helped users explore deeper within search results while remaining more organized, yielding a more stimulating and satisfying experience. Evaluation also identified ways in which searchers thought and behaved differently when categorized overviews were available, including changes in search tactics. Project website: www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/categorizedoverview.

PhotoFinder
PhotoFinder Kiosk was a public access digital photo library that supported group annotation of photos. PhotoFinder Web was a web-based application that supports browsing and searching of annotated photos from the PhotoFinder database. PhotoFinder Web was used to develop the Photo History of SIGCHI website: www.sigchi.org/photohistory.

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