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Do nondomain experts enlist the strategies of domain experts?

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Abstract

User studies demonstrate that nondomain experts do not use the same information-seeking strategies as domain experts. Because of the transformation of integrated library systems into Information Gateways in the late 1990s, both nondomain experts and domain experts have had available to them the wide range of information-seeking strategies in a single system. This article describes the results of a study to answer three research questions: (1) do nondomain experts enlist the strategies of domain experts? (2) if they do, how did they learn about these strategies? and (3) are they successful using them? Interviews, audio recordings, screen captures, and observations were used to gather data from 14 undergraduate students who searched an academic library's Information Gateway. The few times that the undergraduates in this study enlisted search strategies that were characteristic of domain experts, it usually took perseverance, trial-and-error, serendipity, or a combination of all three for them to find useful information. Although this study's results provide no compelling reasons for systems to support features that make domain-expert strategies possible, there is need for system features that scaffold nondomain experts from their usual strategies to the strategies characteristic of domain experts.

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