Known-item searches and search tactics in library search systems: Results from four transaction log analysis studies

Schultheiß, S., Linhart, A., Behnert, C., Rulik, I., & Lewandowski, D. (2020). Known-item searches and search tactics in library search systems: Results from four transaction log analysis studies. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(5), 102202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2020.102202

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Abstract

A better understanding of users’ search interactions in library search systems is key to improving the result ranking. By focusing on known-item searches (searches for an item already known) and search tactics, vast improvement can be made. To better understand user behaviour, we conducted four transaction-log studies, comprising more than 4.2 million search sessions from two German library search systems. Results show that most sessions are rather short; users tend to issue short queries and usually do not go beyond the first search engine result page (SERP). The most frequently used search tactic was the extension of a query (‘Exhaust’). Looking at the known-item searches, it becomes clear that this query type is of great importance. Between 38%–57% of all queries are known-item queries. Titles or title parts were the most frequent elements of these queries, either alone or in combination with the author’s name. Unsuccessful known-item searches were often caused by items not available in the system. Results can be applied by libraries and library system vendors to improve their systems, as well as when designing new systems. Future research, in addition to log data, should also include background information on the usage, for example, through user surveys.

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