Thursday, February 12, 2015

10. Users of information retrieval systems P- 06. Information Storage and Retrieval

इस ब्लॉग्स को सृजन करने में आप सभी से सादर सुझाव आमंत्रित हैं , कृपया अपने सुझाव और प्रविष्टियाँ प्रेषित करे , इसका संपूर्ण कार्य क्षेत्र विश्व ज्ञान समुदाय हैं , जो सभी प्रतियोगियों के कॅरिअर निर्माण महत्त्वपूर्ण योगदान देगा ,आप अपने सुझाव इस मेल पत्ते पर भेज सकते हैं -

10. Users of information retrieval systems

P- 06. Information Storage and Retrieval

By :Dr P.M Devika ,Paper Coordinator



            The user is an important component of any Information Retrieval System(IRS). The ultimate aim of an IRS is to connect the user, quickly and efficiently to the proper information.Useris the last link or the recipient of information, also known as ‘end-user’.  There are other terms used to represent the concept of user such as patron, client, member, customer, etc. In the context of IR the term user is employed to represent the seekers of information. The person who is actively seeking access to information and who, when successful, obtains and uses the information is described as user. Sometimes user is referred as searcher also. For an IRS to be effective and efficient it is very necessary to understand the following:
  • Who are the users?
  • What are their needs, and of what is the nature of their needs?
  • How they seek the required information?
  • What is the use pattern they exhibit in using the information?

In this unit we will discuss about the various aspects of users, their categories and nature. The concept of information need and types of information needs is discussed and more specific information needs in different areas of activities are also explained. The information seeking behaviour of users in order to satisfy their information needs. Also the various methods generally known as user studies carried out to find the pattern of overall interaction of user with the IRS is also discussed. 

1. Users and their nature

The person who is actively seeking access to information and who, when successful, obtains and uses the information is described as user. The user is an important component of any Information Retrieval System(IRS). The users can be categorised on the basis of different characteristics, such as the extent of use of IRS for satisfying their information need or type of activity they are involved in.

Broadly the important group of users can be distinguished according to the kind of activity in which they are engaged:
i)                    Researchers in the basic and applied sciences.
ii)                  Practitioners and technicians engaged in developmental and operational activities in the various filed of technology and industry: agriculture, medicine, industrial production, communication etc.
iii)                Managers, planners and other decision makers who are engaged in developmental activities in both private and public sector.
However, the user groups can be identified according to other characterstics such as:
By nature of work:
            Engineers, scientists, policy makers, researchers, planners, managers, persons in different professions, etc.
Psychological criteria:
            Users with superiority complex, with inferiority complex, selfish, abnormal, normal, etc.
By nature of activity:
            Study, research, specialization, level of education and responsibility etc.

1.1 User functions:
In any IRS, there are several functions performed by the users. The functions include the sequence of activities performed by users to access the information, such as searching, browsing, selecting and evaluating the information objects of their interest. It also includes activities related to obtain and use the information objects once the access seeking is successful. 

2 Types of information needs:

In order to have a user oriented system it is imperative to focus the attention to ‘user’ and his information needs. The accurate assessment of information needs of users forms the primary basis for all information activities.

Before looking at the types of information needs it becomes necessary to understand the concept of ‘information need’. Information need comprises of two terms information and need. It may be defined as need for information; information need is a factual situation in which there exists an inseparable interconnection between ‘information’ and ‘need’. It is also to be understood that the information need exists objectively, that is they are oriented towards reality, practice and task. To have a true perspective of  ‘information need’, the dictionary meaning of the term need and other closely related terms such as; requirement, want and demand should be analyzed. 

Maurice B Line attempted to define these terms in the perspective of information and tried to solve the difficulty of separating the concept of need, want, requirement demand and use, as under:
            Need: What an individual ought to have, for his work, his research, his edification, his recreation, etc. In the case of a research, a needed item of information is one that would further his research. There may be an implied value judgment in the way the term is used. A need may or may not be identified as a want. A need is a potential demand.
            Want: What an individual would like to have, whether or not the want is actually translated in to a demand. Individual may need an item they do not want, or want an item they do not need (or even ought not to have). A want like a need is a potential demand.
            Requirement: It can mean what is needed, what is demanded, and can therefore be usefully employed to cover all three categories.
            Demand: What an individual asks for, more precisely a request for an item of information believed to be wanted (when satisfied, the demand may prove not to be want after all). Individuals may demand information; they do not need and certainly need or want information they do not demand. Demand is partly dependent on expectation, which in turn depends partly on existing provision of library or information services. A demand is a potential use.
            Use: What an individual actually uses. A use may be satisfied demand, or it may be the result of browsing or accident. A use usually represents a need of some kind. Use can be partial indicator of demand, demand of wants, and want of needs.

On the similar attempts, Taylor has explored the information need from the perspective of psychology of human behaviour, as :
i)                    Visceral need:
An actual but unexpressed need for information.
ii)                  Conscious need
An ill defined area of decision
iii)                Formal need
An area of doubt which may be expressed in concrete terms.
iv)                Compromised need
A need translated into what the resources and files can deliver.

Similarly, on the psychological grounds N J Belkin proposed the concept of Anomalous State of Knowledge (ASK) hypothesizing that the information need arises from the recognized anomaly in the users’ state of knowledge concerning some topic or situation and that, in general, the user is unable to specify precisely what is needed to resolve that anomaly.
Information need is a condition in which certain information contribute to the achievement of a genuine or legitimate information purpose. Information need is a relationship that exists between information nd information purpose.

Information need can be divided into the following categories:
i)                    Social or pragmatic information needs
Under this category we can put information that is required to cope with the day to day life, such as weather details of a location, Bus and train timings, etc.
ii)                  Recreation information needs
This category involves information satisfying the recreational and cultural interests of the users, such as the upcoming books, TV show timings etc.
iii)                Professional information needs
The information required to operate competently and efficiently within the professional environment of the user. This involves information regarding new trends and practices being followed.
iv)                Educational information needs
The information required to satisfy academic requirement at an institution or to learn new skills.
Information need can also be classified into, kinetic and potential information need. The kinetic needs are directed towards satisfying a special problem in hand diagnosed and are of immediate concern. While potential needs remain hidden under the layers of attitude, impulse and values.

3 Information needs in different areas of activity

In this section we will discuss the information needs in some areas of activity. The areas covered are, Industrial information needs, planning information needs, information need in business, decision-making, research and development information need, Information need for business.

Before going in detail about the various information needs in different areas of activities it is worth to understand how to ascertain the information needs of the clientele.
Ms. Pauline Atherton listed some methods of ascertaining the information needsL
  1. Study the organizational chart of the institution.
  2. Study of its functions, activities chart of the organization.
  3. Study of its annual reports, project reports and other publications.
  4. Survey of users’ requirements using questionnaire.
  5. Interviewing users:
    1. Interview of superiors of user (persons higher in the hierarchy)
    2. Interviewing user
    3. Interview of subordinates of user (person controlled, taught, guided etc.)
    4. Study of papers, books, etc. published by the user.
    5. Attending seminars, colloquia, etc. in which the users participate.
    6. Observing user at his work place.
    7. Personal informal contacts with users.
10.  Meeting users in small, preferably homogeneous groups periodically.
11.  Feedback from information services rendered.
12.  Providing for suggestions from users, about their subject interest, author interest, institutional interest, etc.
13.  Attending technical meetings within the institution at which projects and problems may be discussed.
14.  Scanning correspondence and reports prepared and received by the user.
15.  Study of documents used by user.
16.  Study of reference queries received from the users.
17.  Participation in work orientation programmes.
18.  While orienting and guiding users in using the libraries resources, tools and techniques.
19.  Study of classification schemes and handbooks.
20.  Liaison.

3.1 Industrial information needs:

            Success of an industry depends on its ability to receive the vital information in time. It is well established now that the more updated an industry is the more successful it becomes. Information need of industries fall into following broad categories:
i)                    Technological information
ii)                  Company oriented information
iii)                Economic information
iv)                Policy information
However, any new industry in the process of its establishment may need the information concerning: scope and prospects for the industry,location,land,machinery and equipment,raw material, utilities,transportation,staff and labour,finances, regulations and procedures,market strategy.

3.2 Planning information needs:

Planning is process of determining the course of action. Proper planning helps in achieving the goals by following a well set path of interrelated events. As the planning is future oriented, to do it well an accurate assessment of past and present situation of the relevant environment is must.

The information needs in planning activity can be understood by understanding the steps that are followed while planning. Planning activity involves five interactive steps and the planner must be supplied with the needed information at each steps.
a)      Planning establishes goals and objectives. This requires large amount of information related to present and past events and situations.
b)      Planning also identifies the events and activities that must be performed to achieve the goals. This step also requires considerable amount of information relating to each event and activities.
c)      The next step is to describe the resources and/or talents necessary to perform he identified activity. The information related to available resources such as individuals who will implement and control the activities is paramount at this step.
d)      Defining the duration of each identified activity. This requires lot of prior experience and other information about the sub-activities.
e)      Final step is to determine the sequence in which the identified activities must be performed for best results.

3.3 Decision-making and information needs

Decision-making is a process of selecting the most desirable or the optimum alternative to resolve a problem or to attain a goal. Decision-making ranges from taking routine decisions to the complex ones. There is a direct relationship between decision-making and information; the more the decision maker is informed the better decisions can be made. Information is an essential ingredient of decision-making. The decision-making is pragmatic, rational, information using process. Hence it is very much necessary to provide accurate and timely information to the decision makers so that their information needs is fulfilled and informed decisions are made.

Different levels of decision making requires different types of information as under:
Strategic decision-making requires strategic information. Strategic decisions are characterized by a great deal of uncertainty and are future oriented. It includes activities like establishing policies, policy making, organizing and attaining an overall effectiveness for the organization.

Tactical decision-making requires tactical information. This pertains to short term activities and allocation of resources for the attainment of the objectives. At the tactical level of decision-making, standards are fixed and the results of decisions are deterministic.

As decision-making involves broadly intelligence, design of course of action, and choice of appropriate course of action, the information needs at each stage can be satisfied by information from internal sources, prior experiences and the information about the environment where the decisions are going to implemented.

3.5 Information needs in business

Any business operates in an environment that consists of economic, legal, political, social and technological factors. Each factor create need for different types of information needs. The information needs vary from very general type of information to more detailed information relating to different aspects of the business.
Some of the information needs can be listed as:
i)                    Capital procurement and mobilization
ii)                  Technical know-how
iii)                Knowledge of existing policies, practices and regulations.
iv)                Market conditions and requirements
v)                  Foreign trade
vi)                Management information

The information needs mentioned above if adequately satisfied with the right information the business excels. 

5 User studies

In this section we will discuss the various methods generally known as user studies carried out to find the pattern of overall interaction of user with the information retrieval system. Studying the behaviourand information needs of users in a systematic manner can help in increasing the efficiency of the system. Since last two decades user studies has gained lot of attention in library and information science. The user study aims to understand the processes of information transfer, which will further lead to improvement in the similar systems.

The term user study is mainly concerned with studying information processing activities of users. It essentially implies the study of the use of the demand or need of information. A study, which mainly focuses on ‘users’ to measure their information, needs, use behaviour and use pattern. Also for a meaningful service user study is must.

Menzel has categorized the user studies into three cateogries as under:

i)                    Behaviour Studies
ii)                  Use studies
iii)                Information flow studies
Studies which are carried out to find out the pattern of overall interaction of the user community with the communication system, without reference to any specific information receiving event are called information behaviour studies.
Studies which are conducted to find out the use of any communication medium such as primary periodical, secondary periodical, other sources are called use studies. While the studies which are conducted to find the pattern of flow of information in the communication system is the information flow studies.

The factors of user study include the;
i)                    Identification of user group,
ii)                  assessment of use information needs,
iii)                identification of user approaches and attitudes in finding, locating, and obtaining the information,
iv)                orienting the user in finding, locating, and obtaining the information,
v)                  matching the user and his information in such a way that the maximum benefits could be derived from the system.

Reasons for conducting user studies

The following reasons could be pointed for conducting a user study:
i)                    Identifying the actual systems and weaknesses of library resources and services,
ii)                  Identifying the levels and kinds of user needs,
iii)                Identifying faculty and student priorities for library and information resources and services.
iv)                identifying the limitations or problems which seem to discourage the use of the system,
v)                  identifying the level of involvement of user in the system,
vi)                improving the organization and planning of the overall system.

The user study may also adopt interdisciplinary approach to the study of the user.There may be psychological or sociological approach. The aim of the user study is to develop dynamic interface between the system and the user. Hence the scope of user study is quite wide and ever increasing in its dimension. 


In this module we tried to understand the answers to the following questions:
  • Who are the users and how can we categorise them?
  • What are their needs, and of what is the nature of their needs?
  • What are the specific information needs in some areas of  human activities?           
  • How the users seek the required information and by depicting what kind of behaviour?
  • What is the use pattern they exhibit in using the information?

Finally we understood the various aspects of users, their categories and nature. The concept of information need and types of information needs and more specific information needs in different areas of activities are also explained. The information seeking behaviour of users in order to satisfy their information needs. Also the various methods generally known as user studies carried out to find the pattern of overall interaction of user with the IRS is also discussed. 


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