The purpose of this paper is to report an empirical investigation into conceptions of the “invisible web”.
This was an exploratory qualitative study based on in‐depth semi‐structured interviews with 15 members of academic staff from three biology‐related departments at the University of Sheffield. Concepts emerged from an inductive analysis of the interview data to form a tentative model.
A distinction is drawn between technical objective conceptions of the “invisible web” that commonly appear in the literature, and a cognitive subjective conception based on searchers' perceptions of search failure, and a tentative model of “cognitive invisibility” is presented. The relationship between objective and subjective conceptions, and implications for training, are discussed.
The research was qualitative and exploratory, designed to elicit sensitising concepts and to “map the territory”. It thus aims to provide a tentative model that could form the basis for more systematic study. Such research could investigate the validity of the categories in different and/or larger samples, seek further to illuminate, challenge, extend or refute the model, and address issues of generalisability.
The paper presents a conceptual model that is intended to be a useful reference point for researchers wishing to investigate user‐based aspects of search failure and the invisible web. It may also be useful to trainers and those interested in developing information literacy, in that it differentiates technical objective and cognitive subjective conceptions of “invisibility, and discusses the implications for helping searchers develop more effective searching capabilities.
The paper offers an alternative cognitive subjective view of “web invisibility” to that more commonly presented in the literature. It contributes to a still small body of empirical research into user‐based aspects of the invisible web.
Ford, N. and Mansourian, Y. (2006), "The invisible web: an empirical study of “cognitive invisibility”", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 62 No. 5, pp. 584-596. https://doi.org/10.1108/00220410610688732Download as .RIS
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