I completed IFN611 – Information retrieval in my first semester of the Master of Information Science (Library and Information Practice) in 2015. This was my first semester back at university since completing my first degree in 2000. Everything had changed in 15 years. Firstly, I was studying completely externally and online! In my first degree, the personal use of computers, the internet, email and the World Wide Web was only just coming in during the last year or two of my degree, and everyone was on a steep learning curve with this new technology. Secondly, I was a completely different person studying this time around. I had already been working as a professional for the last 15 years, developing many professional skills (including very competent computer and Web use skills), and I was motivated, organised, an efficient time manager; and conscious of the need to ensure that I was living a healthy lifestyle. All of these factors culminated to ensure that my experience of university the second time around was a much better one than the first time.
I really enjoyed studying Information Retrieval. The subject gave me core knowledge and skills that are essential for any librarian. I believe that information retrieval comprises an essential component of the librarian’s tool kit. I enjoyed the content in Information retrieval, and achieved key learnings from the first assignment, which were as follows:
- Prior to conducting any search for information, define and specify the client’s information need carefully in a client interview, so that appropriate and relevant search objectives emerge.
- I must have a breadth of knowledge of relevant search tools, including databases and search engines, in order to select an appropriate tool in which to search.
- When constructing search strategies, a thorough knowledge of the unique search features of each online search tool is required to obtain the most relevant results from the search.
- Evaluate results carefully to ensure that they are of adequate quality in terms of reliability, credibility, authority, validity, accuracy, timeliness and point of view.
Apart from the standard learnings about the standard information search and retrieval process (listed above), I also enjoyed learning about other models of the information seeking process in Hearst (2009); including Bates’ (1989) Dynamic (Berry-Picking) model. This model evolved from observational studies of the information seeking process, in which it was found that the searcher’s information needs continually changed as they read and learned from the information encountered during the search process. They might find new keyword suggestions, and formulate new questions along the way. The main value of the search was in the learning and acquisition of information that occurred during the search process, rather than in the final set of results. This model is the one that most closely aligns with the way I conduct a search for information for my own assignments. To me, it is an exciting adventure to embark on a search for information. My information need and search query is always vague and only partially outlined, because I rely on learning more about the subject as I go, finding new keywords, and exciting new paths to follow. The blanks get filled in as I go.
Of course, I see that in a workplace environment, an efficient, systematic method is called for to retrieve information for users; therefore, the standard method is very useful for librarians when they are assisting users to find the information they need. The standard method presents a systematic way to efficiently extract the information need from the user, construct a search strategy, search for, and retrieve quality information for the user. I will leave the berry-picking model for my own information search process. Although, it might be good to remember it for any classes in information retrieval I might teach in the future.
Hearst, M. (2009). Models of the Information Seeking Process. In Search User Interfaces. (pp. 64-90). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139644082.004