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Studying PubMed usages in the field for complex problem solving: Implications for tool design

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Abstract

Many recent studies on MEDLINE-based information seeking have shed light on scientists’ behaviors and associated tool innovations that may improve efficiency and effectiveness. Few, if any, studies, however, examine scientists’ problem-solving uses of PubMed in actual contexts of work and corresponding needs for better tool support. Addressing this gap, we conducted a field study of novice scientists (14 upper-level undergraduate majors in molecular biology) as they engaged in a problem-solving activity with PubMed in a laboratory setting. Findings reveal many common stages and patterns of information seeking across users as well as variations, especially variations in cognitive search styles. Based on these findings, we suggest tool improvements that both confirm and qualify many results found in other recent studies. Our findings highlight the need to use results from context-rich studies to inform decisions in tool design about when to offer improved features to users.

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