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Relevance as process: judgements in the context of scholarly research

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Author(s): Theresa D. Anderson

Journal: Information Research: an international electronic journal
ISSN 1368-1613

Volume: 10;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 226;
Date: 2005;
Original page

Keywords: Ethnographic study of relevance assessment in information seeking

ABSTRACT
Introduction. This paper discusses how exploring the research process in-depth and over time contributes to a fuller understanding of interactions with various representations of information. Method. A longitudinal ethnographic study explored decisions made by two informants involved in scholarly research. Relevance assessment and information seeking were observed as part of informants' own ongoing research projects. Fieldwork used methods of discovery that allowed informants to shape the exploration of the practices surrounding the evolving understandings of their topics. Analysis. Inductive analysis was carried out on the qualitative data collected over a two-year period of judgements observed on a document-by-document basis. The paper introduces broad categories that point to the variability and richness of the ways that informants used representations of information resources to make relevance judgements. Results. Relevance judgements appear to be drivers of the search and research processes informants moved through during the observations. Focusing on research goals rather than on retrieval tasks brings us to a fuller understanding of the relationship between ultimate research goals and the articulation of those goals in interactions with information systems. Conclusion. Relevance assessment is a process that unfolds in the doing of a search, the making of judgements and the using of texts and representations of information.
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