Subject Search Disconnect (Contributed Paper)

Margaret Mellinger and Jane Nichols from Oregon State University shared findings from their research on what our students expect from search. You have probably observed or experienced their findings if your teaching or working reference.

Our students prefer a single search box. They use tools they know and find easy to use. They want clear starting points. They are task oriented and search that way (find books, find articles, etc.). They are phrase searchers. They do not use Boolean. They like spell checkers that suggest the correct spelling. They expect results to be sorted by relevance.

Our students use technology during multi-tasking, primarily for communication. As for customization, they see no reason to customize our tools or create profiles due to time constraints. They are not opposed to customization, they customize MySpace and other social software sites regularly. Most students are still not aware of RSS or its benefits. They may use RSS, but they don't realize they are using it.

The biggest eye opener for me is that our students don't try different terms if the search fails. They will move on to another database, but continue to use the same word that didn't work before. The search will fail and then they will move on to yet another database.

I've noticed this before during instruction, but hadn't given it much thought. I try to explain during instruction the importance of selecting words and thinking about alternatives. This seems to be a challenge for some students. 

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