Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Taking Care of Business, Part II

In the last entry, I wrote about the following requirements for the term project:

1. Selection and characteristics of the user.
2. User's question.
3. Mode of and results from interview.
4. User model and changes in user model as the search progresses.

Today, I will be tackling the list below:

1. Construction and variations in search strategies and tactics.
2. Discussion of changes and reasons for these changes.
3. Consideration of modes of presentation of results.
4. User evaluation.
5. Resulting changes.

Construction and Variations in Search Strategies and Tactics

The construction of the search strategy used in this project was based primarily two elements: 1. reference interview questions and 2. evaluation of available online search systems. Although subtle in most cases, the variations in search strategies and tactics also were driven by the reference interviews, as well as the search results (e.g., a failure to produce relevant results in a given database would push me to search in a different database). Because successful results were produced so early in the search process, techniques typically used to augment searches, i.e., berrypicking, were not applied.

The reference interview questions, as seen in the previous post, went a long way toward shaping the search strategy. Knowing that Andrea specifically wanted applications of the motivational techniques to use for her work helped me to target the articles that would be of most help to her. Because she works in the dual-diagnosis field (people who not only battle addiction, but also live with other psychiatric disorders), it was easy to see that the Alcohol Studies Database in the Rutgers databases would be an excellent fit for the search.

The biggest change in strategy was when I felt that I had been able to find enough very relevant articles from the Alcohol Studies Database to resume searching on the web, albeit in a very target way. My goal was to find "nuts and bolts" as Andrea put it, not just studies of success or failures in the field. While she didn't explicitly state it, Andrea wanted guidelines and manuals. I made a decision not to search on the terms "guidelines" and "manuals" along with motivational interviewing because it seemed that the topic is such a specialized one (and because my success in just using those terms gave me confidence) that the results would lead me to the documents Andrea needed. All I needed to do was look in the right place.

Based on my previous professional experience, I selected some government sites which led me to uncover the MIA:STEP brochure. Andrea's feedback in the comments section of the entry where I explained my search strategy for finding that brochure were very confidence-building. She was elated to find the brochure and a link that had led her (independently) to find audio files on the entire motivational interviewing technique being applied with a patient. It was rewarding to find that my strategies and tactics were so successful.

Discussion of Changes and Reasons for These Changes

As noted earlier in this post, my changes were not significant in terms of the search terms. Instead, the changes were more evident in the selection of databases and free online resources. Because the previous topic above addresses this requirement, I will save space and move on to the next topic.

Consideration of Modes of Presentation of Results

This element of the term project was of particular importance to both Andrea and me because both of us are short on time due to work and school commitments. It also was a key consideration because we needed a web-based solution due to our geographical distance. The ability to be able to use this blog to accomplish the task solved all manner of potential issues.

For instance, I worried that I would have to scan miles of pages to email to Andrea. However, the articles were readily available to her through her work and school channels. Additionally, the ability to use Snag It (a very handy screen capture tool) to capture sections of search results and place those as jpgs within the blog was extraordinarily helpful to Andrea and me as we progressed through the search. I made sure to include instructions on viewing (e.g., click to view images larger) so that she could have an easy way to see the results.

The comments option of the blog also offered instant feedback options to Andrea. While she had difficulty initially (the fault was entirely mine, I had incorrectly set up the option, but corrected it quickly after being alerted to the problem), Andrea quickly used the comments option to give constructive and positive feedback during the search.

Using this blog for the presentation of results allowed me to go into as much or as little detail as needed to display what I had found. Additionally, the use of image capture technology along with the Blogger application allowed me to convey the results in an easy-to-use and easy-to-view way for Andrea.

User Evaluation

This element of the project was by far the most rewarding part of the experience. Andrea's enthusiastic responses to each of my search results (as seen in the comments of the posts) kept driving me forward to seek more information on motivational interviewing.

In order of appearance from oldest to newest, here are Andrea's comments:

1. Feedback on first search results using Google.

2. Comments on the results of using the Rutgers Indexes and Databases.

3. Feedback on my finding a very "nuts and bolts" article on motivational interviewing.

4. Comments on my findings at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services site.

Resulting Changes

As has been discussed earlier, due to the consistent relevant results of using the term "motivational interviewing", my search strategies and tactics did not change significantly during my efforts. Only the locations for searching changed significantly, from a free online search engine (Google), to the Rutgers Libraries' Indexes and Databases (Alcohol Studies Database and Social Sciences Full Text Database), back to a free online search engine (Resource Discovery Network), then back to a particularly successful Rutgers Libraries' database (Alcohol Studies Database), and finally, U.S. government web sites (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health).

Reflections and Conclusion

Looking back on the experience, I can think of this search as successful because the client was delighted by the results. However, knowing now what I do, I would have made a few slight changes in the search strategy in the use of a few additional terms. In my searches, I would have added the term "practice" with motivational interviewing because that is essentially what Andrea needed -- articles on the practice of the technique, not just research about it. Asking more and better questions during the reference interview would have led me to that conclusion earlier.

I enjoyed working within the Rutgers Library Indexes and Databases, however, I'm very much looking forward to the coming changes to the search and results interfaces as well as the handshaking improvements between the databases housed on external servers and the Rutgers system. At present, it's very klugy and inconsistent.

I also liked discovering all the helpful information provided by the U.S. government sites. It was surprising to see all the useful links and other resources that led both Andrea and me to discover even further useful information.

In conclusion, at the beginning of this project, I didn't expect it to be as enjoyable as it turned out to be. The credit for that sits squarely on the shoulders of my user Andrea, who provided such useful and rewarding feedback. I no longer feel lost in the weeds about searching for topics unknown to me because I can apply search strategies and tactics learned in Principles of Searching (as well as following my gut around the free web).

I also didn't expect to find so many useful resources so quickly. I'll be sure to tag them for my Delicious account. When I find time between term projects, take home exams, and papers. For now, I hope that the followers of this blog have learned a few things along with me. I look forward to the next searching adventure.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Deb,
    This is excellent! I do not see a single aspect of the project that is missing. I want to read through it again and provide comments as I liked the way you approached different aspects of the project via the blog. The project didn't ask for this, but I was curious if your client, Andrea, wanted any kind of summary of all the articles and links in a document as well as the blog, or if this was sufficient for her? (possibly for future reference?)
    Thank you, and I will see you on Monday!


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