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Usability Report: Google Scholar Article Search Function

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by

Andrew Ramseyer

on 6 May 2013

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Transcript of Usability Report: Google Scholar Article Search Function



Report prepared on
May 4, 2013
by
Andrew Ramseyer
aar247@nau.edu I. Executive Summary Usability Report:
Google Scholar Article Search Function II. Introduction Northern Arizona University's Cline Library offers a variety of search engines, each linking to specific databases where all kinds of valuable information is stored for the use of university students and faculty. This usability study focuses on the article search function for one of these search engines, Google Scholar.

This usability test consists of a series of small scenarios, designed for the purpose of collecting background information on the participants and testing specific functions associated with searching for articles within Google Scholar on the NAU Cline Library homepage. Participants will be asked to work through several tasks, including searching for a specific topic, investigating the search results, and testing the ease of printing articles.
b. Scenario 1 Questions & Answers For this first scenario, participants were asked to open the NAU Cline Library homepage, conduct a specialized search on global warming, examine the findings on the search results page, and attempt to print out a PDF copy of one of the found articles. III. Usability Test Methods
Before the actual scenarios, participants were asked to answer some simple background questions, mainly relating to their previous experience with Google Scholar and the specifics of their test-taking environment. Here are the results from this series of questions: c. Scenario 2 Questions & Answers The End Presentation Contents I. Executive Summary

II. Introduction

III. Usability Test Methods
a. Preliminary Background Questions & Answers
b. Scenario 1 Questions & Answers
c. Scenario 2 Questions & Answers

IV. Usability Test Results/Conclusion
1. What type of internet browser are you using for this study?

Internet Explorer
Mozilla Firefox
Google Chrome
Other

Of the 4 participants, 2 used 'Internet Explorer', 1 used 'Mozilla Firefox', and 1 used 'Other' and indicated that they used Safari. 2. What type of computer are you currently using for this study?

Home Computer
Laptop
University Computer
Other

Of the 4 participants, 2 used a 'Laptop' and 2 used a 'Home Computer'. 3. Where are you located at the time of this study?

Home
School
Work
Other

Of the 4 participants, 3 selected 'Home and 1 selected 'Other'. 4. Were you aware of Google Scholar before starting this test?

Of the 4 participants, 2 answered 'No' and 2 answered 'Yes'. 5. Have you ever used Google Scholar in the past for research purposes?

Of the 4 participants, 3 answered 'No' and 1 answered 'Yes'. 6. Have you ever used Google Scholar through the Cline Library?

Of the 4 participants, 3 answered 'No' and 1 answered 'Yes'.

7. If you have used Google Scholar in the past, how approximately how many times have you used it?

Of the 4 participants, 2 answered 'N/A' and 2 answered '1-2 times Per Semester'. From these preliminary results, the data shows that user have either used Google Scholar only a small amount, or have never used it at all. More importantly, only half of the participants were aware of Google Scholar before taking the usability test. This suggests that, at least currently, students appear to not be completely aware that Google Scholar is a legitimate option. A more prominent space on the NAU Cline Library homepage could attract more interest and traffic. Preliminary Determinations 1. How easy is it to find the Google Scholar search option on the front page of the Cline Library?

Of the 4 participants, all 4 answered 'Easy'.

2. How easy is it to access a PDF version of an article on the search results page?

Of the 4 participants, 2 answered 'Easy' and 2 answered 'Very Easy'. 3. How would you rate the layout of the search results page?

Of the 4 participants, 1 answered 'Somewhat Negative' and 3 answered 'Somewhat Positive'.

4. Do the results of the search appear to be relevant and useful?

Of the 4 participants, all 4 answered 'Yes'. 5. What types of sites is Google Scholar pulling search results from?

All 4 participants reported back that they found mainly nature, science, and academic journals on the search results page.

6. How would you rate your experience with printing an article from Google Scholar?

Of the 4 participants, 1 answered 'Easy' and 3 answered 'Very Easy'. Determinations From the data collected for this scenario, it is clear that the results that are being found after specific searches are appropriate and helpful. Additionally, the process that users will work through to find the information they need is structurally solid and requires little to no major changes. IV. Usability Test Final Results/Conclusion For this second scenario, participants were asked to examine the "Search Tips" and "What Is This?" sections on the NAU Cline Library homepage. 1. Do you believe that these sections could provide valuable information to anyone struggling with the Google Scholar service?

Of the 4 participants, all 4 answered 'Yes'.

When prompted to provide suggestions for these sections, the 4 participants felt that these options could provide valuable information to struggling users, although one commented that the "What is this?" section was essentially an advertisement for Google. Additionally, while the addition of screen shots with numbered labels was generally appreciated among the participants, there was a general feeling that this feature could be made clearer. Determinations The help functions on the NAU Cline Library homepage are useful tools for those that have trouble navigating the Google Scholar search engine service. However, improvements can be made to these sections, including limiting any potential initial impressions that it is nothing but an advertisement for Google. Changes can also be made regarding the screen shot feature, particularly the addition of numbered labels to make specific directions clearer to the user. This presentation details the process and the results of a usability test, designed to assess the merits and deficiencies of the search article function of Google Scholar, one of many search engines available on the Northern Arizona University Cline Library homepage. The usability test was designed to lead participants through a series of steps that highlight the service's primary functions. 4 participants were involved in the test-taking process, each of them a student at Northern Arizona University. The test required a minimal amount of time, and all 4 participants were able to complete the test without any barriers preventing their progress. The results of the test indicated conclusive information on the positive value of the Google Scholar service through the NAU Cline Library homepage, as well as suggestions for future improvements. The general reaction towards the Google Scholar article search feature was positive, including among the newcomers experiencing the service for the first time. 3 of the 4 participants expressed the opinion that they would use the service again in the future, although there was a suggestion that the service is best for less detailed searches. All 4 participants suggested improvements to be made to the service in some way or another, whether it was through inclusions to specific features (the screen shot feature in particular) or the general layout. The final conclusion to take away from this usability test is that Google Scholar can be a valuable tool to NAU Cline Library users, and all that needs to be changed are a couple minor tweaks in service layout and the overall visibility on the library homepage. a. Preliminary Background Questions
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