Design of a tool interface between researchers and information sources

Smetham, Mark Peter (1998) Design of a tool interface between researchers and information sources. (MPhil thesis), Kingston University, .


Access to electronic information through the Internet has become commonplace. Even novice users searching for general information can use on-line databases or Internet search engines. For researchers, wishing to retrieve relevant research information, the evolution of searching and retrieval facilities available through the Internet has progressed frustratingly slowly. The first part of the research used structured interviews of researchers, following a questionnaire, to review researchers' current working practices and problems (Appendix A). The range and bulk of subject matter available from the Internet frequently leaves the researcher filtering for relevant documents, almost as a vocation, instead of researching an information subset to advance his/her knowledge in a particular area. After discovering a relevant document, the researcher then faces problems with retrieving and organising it to become part of their collection of research information. These findings established a need for a unified tool called IMAR (Information Management Assistant for Researchers) to help researchers to manage document searching, retrieval, relevance filtering and organisation. The second part of the research was a broad study of electronic information organisation and retrieval techniques, Internet information resource types and database storage products. This study indicated that the design of IMAR should manage the front-end retrieval from disparate information resources of relevant documents. The researcher selects the more relevant documents, to be stored in a back-end local Personal Research Database (PRD). A survey of Internet information resources, object programming languages and database storage products show IMAR should use Java because of its versatility and general Internet adoption for front-end access to information resources and File Maker Pro as the prototype back-end storage and management product. The third part of the research involved the design of IMAR using Select/OMT and Coad-Yourdon CASE tools and a cut-down version of the Jacobson methodology. The development of IMAR prototypes used a Java development tool called Symantec Cafe. The fourth part of the research, the conclusion, determines that when fully implemented IMAR will be a very useful tool for researchers. IMAR supports searching, retrieval, organisation and management of electronic research information. The researcher can teach IMAR to access specific information resources. Submit a single query and IMAR will search a chosen list of information resources. IMAR retrieves relevant documents by comparing documents found during the search with documents on the researchers Personal Research Database. The researcher chooses which documents to save to the Personal Research Database. The documents are useful as informal reference material.

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