Postgraduate student success rate with free-form information searching

Uwimana, Iris

Weideman, Melius

Richards, Mandie

Proceedings of The 13th World Wide Web conference

Uwimana, I., Weideman, M. & Richards, M., 2011, Postgraduate student success rate with free-form information searching. Poster in Proceedings of The 13th World Wide Web conference. 13-16 September. Johannesburg, South Africa. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.3208.6648

ABSTRACT.
The main study objective was to investigate and assess the success rate of postgraduate students at CPUT when using free-form Internet searching. The term “free-form” in this study indicates the use of a search engine to find information, as opposed to using an academic database.

The literature has shown that free-form Internet searching plays an important role as the main sources in accessing of information for researchers, yet this information source has made it difficult to ascertain the authenticity of such information. This is not surprising as the volume of Internet search is changing incrementally.

The study utilized the survey approach. A questionnaire was sent to enrolled postgraduate students at CPUT. They were asked to use free-form searching to find academic materials, and to record their methods and results.

The study determined that the most popular free-form search engine used was Google and the majority of respondents indicated that they have more than two years’ experience and use it at least once per day when searching for information. The “Success Rate” result, although higher than most other studies, shows that postgraduate students have a lower than expected rate of success when using free-from searching for academic information. However, an encouraging trend seems to be an increase in query length in general when using a search engine to look for academic references. In this study, the average approaches five words per search, which is higher than most previous work indicates. This higher figure could explain the increase in success rate.
REFERENCES
  1. Spink, A. & Xu, J.L. 2000. Selected results from a large study of Web searching: the Excite study. Information Research, 6(1). http://informationr.ner/ir/6-1/paper90.html [20 May 2011]
  2. Weideman, M. 2009. Website Visibility: The theory and Practice of Improving Rankings. Oxford: Chandos Publishing
Postgraduate student success rate with free-form information searching

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