Illinois State University student feedback on federated search | Federated Search BlogFederated Search
5
Jan

RUSQ (The Reference & User Services Quarterly journal) has published an article: Student Feedback on Federated Search Use, Satisfaction, and Web Presence: Qualitative Findings of Focus Groups. Here’s a piece of the introduction:

Illinois State University’s Milner Library conducted focus groups in the summer and fall of 2007 as part of its user-centered approach to implementing a federated search engine. The feedback supplemented the comments from usability testing conducted in the summer of 2006. The purpose of the focus groups was to learn about students’ use of and satisfaction with the federated search engine and to gather their ideas on how to incorporate it into the library website.

I’m always delighted to discover articles about how federated search is used and received so I consider this article, published in 2009, to be a good find. The PDF version of the article is nine pages long, long enough to be substantial yet short enough to be an easy read.

The introduction shares some of the process that Milner Library went through in customizing and evaluating their federated search deployment, “Search It,” in 2006 and 2007. The article continues with a literature review and emphasizes the lack of feedback from actual federated search users in studies. Thus, the method section states:

The purpose of this study was to learn about patrons’ use of and satisfaction with Search It and especially to gather their ideas on how to incorporate Search It into the library website.

Milner Library conducted two rounds of focus groups with students who had used the tool, not with students in a controlled search environment. In total, eighteen students participated.

Findings of the study were not earth-shattering.

As has been the case with previous research, the majority of our participants
expressed satisfaction with our federated search tool. Unlike many of those previous studies in which respondents gave positive but qualified support to federated searching, our focus group participants offered strong support. When asked whether the library should continue to offer federated searching, all participants who commented urged the library to do so.

This statement was noteworthy:

Unique to our study was the finding that our participants typically use our federated search tool frequently and they use it in tandem with more traditional finding tools like Google and individual databases. Most of our participants were not choosing between federated search and other tools but were adding federated search to their research options.

I liked the article, not because of some great finding it revealed, but because it contributes to the body of serious research about federated search. The literature review deepens my awareness of what research and studies are being performed. The findings confirm that students tend to like federated search. I recommend this article to those of you who like to stay current with the literature.

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