Two on assessment methods

Here are two articles from Library and Information Research journal that demonstrates two useful qualitative methods.  I apologize that these articles may be restricted to those without subscriptions, but you should be able to see the abstracts and order via ILL.

Photovoice: A promising method for studies of individuals’ information practices, by Heidi Julien, Lisa Given & Anna Opryshko.

Methods in information behavior research have tended to remain stable, with little variety during the past 20 years (Julien, Pecoskie, & Reed, 2011), with surveys (e.g., questionnaires, interviews) dominating. In addition, there has been insufficient methodological triangulation (including mixed-methods studies) in information behavior research. Interestingly, few scholars publish meta-level discussions of their methodological approaches, which could guide new research practices within the field. Seeking innovation in research methods with a view to incorporating the demonstrated practices of undergraduate students into the design of information services, this project using a quantitative survey, photovoice, and qualitative interviews to gather data to inform information literacy interventions at the undergraduate level based on students’ authentic experiences. The photovoice method is described in detail to provide information behavior scholars with a glimpse of the value of this approach for future studies. Photovoice, at its core, is a valuable way to gather rich data from an emic perspective, as it seeks to uncover participants’ views of their worlds and the challenges they face. In photovoice, participants are given easy-to-use cameras and asked to photograph what is salient in their everyday worlds, giving particular attention to a phenomenon of interest. The resulting photographs are used as prompts for discussion about the meanings and significances that the participants attach to the documented activities or objects. Although the study’s purpose is outlined to provide context for the discussion of photovoice, the focus is the photovoice method.

This article describes a study that had students take pictures and caption the photos with their thoughts regarding their information seeking cases.  Another application of anthropological research methods.

Finding their way: How public library users wayfind, by Laura Mandel from University of Rhode Island.

• Library users’ wayfinding behavior is generally inconsistent over time.
• Wayfinders tend to use straighter and more direct segments, but many do not.
• Wayfinding behavior depends on whether users are alone or with other people.
• Users articulate use of Passini’s wayfinding styles more than his strategies.
• Struggling to wayfind does not translate into user recommendations for change.

A multi-method case study research design, guided by Passini’s conceptual framework of wayfinding, was employed to investigate library user wayfinding behavior within the entry area of a medium-sized public library facility. The case study research design included document review of the library’s wayfinding information system; unobtrusive observation of library user wayfinding behavior; intensive interviews with library users to discuss their views on wayfinding in the library; and an expert review with library staff and a library wayfinding and signage expert to validate research findings. Overall, the study found library users’ wayfinding behavior to be generally inconsistent over time, but that there are users who stick to predominant segments (those segments used heavily to connect two particular nodes, or stops). Those segments tend to be the straightest or most direct segments connecting two given nodes. Also, users appear to employ Passini’s wayfinding styles more often than his wayfinding strategies, but additional research is needed that delves more deeply into these cognitive processes.

Wayfinding has always been an interesting topic for me, whether its physical or virtual navigation.

I would like someday to apply these kinds of methods to use of the collection, both physical and electronic.  I think that they would be useful in assessing the accessibility and usability of these resources.


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