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Evaluating a forthcoming international bibliographic research database in form of a Zotero group

  • Purpose – In order to connect the various international research hubs on physical learning spaces, a large-scale research database has been developed, using a Zotero group. Hitherto, its interface and collection index has never been examined for usability. This pilot study attempts to discover what retrieval strategy combinations users apply in the Zotero web interface, and how satisfied they are with the usability and the retrieval outcomes. The results shall not just generate ideas for the improvement of the studied database, but also provide inspiration for similar Zotero projects. Design/methodology/approach – This pilot study is designed as a qualitative field study. A sample of the project is actual target group was contacted around Copenhagen, Denmark. During a home- or office-visit, a natural search task was defined and executed by the participant on a laptop provided by the instructor. Using TechSmiths Morae usability software, screen, webcam, and voice data was recorded and analyzed; after the recording, a usability survey was filled out. Findings – Despite only two samples, the participants use and judge the three search methods of Zotero differently. Most participants favor the free text search method (1), although the retrieval results are unsatisfactory. In a large-scale, multi-language collection, like the assessed database, browsing in hierarchical categories (2), or faceting results using a tag cloud (3) may be more effective and efficient, but only a minority of participants understands and applies these methods. Furthermore, it appears that the interface lacks intuitive navigation, especially for the non-scientific community. Novice Zotero users not familiar with the concepts of bibliographic databases may fail to differentiate between the Zotero website (the service provider) and the Zotero group (the database, the actual subject of the study). Originality/value – This is the first published usability study of a large-scale Zotero group. It introduces usability issues, regarding search functions and web interface. Besides drawing inspiration from a similar Zotero bibliography, which uses RSS feeds and API interfaces, a few practical ways to enhance user search experience are suggested. The pilot study concludes with suggestions for further research, designed for more reliable participant scales.

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Author:Stefan Volkmann
Document Type:Researchpaper
Date of Publication (online):2015/04/01
Contributing Corporation:University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Humanities
Release Date:2015/04/01
Tag:bibliographic management software; usability study
GND Keyword:Funktionalität; Fachbibliographie; Lernort
Institutes:FB 3: Information und Kommunikation / Bibliotheks- und Informationsmanagement (Bachelor, Master)
DDC classes:000 Allgemeines, Informatik, Informationswissenschaft / 020 Bibliotheks- und Informationswissenschaft
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt