The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of task and user’s topic familiarity in the evaluation of information patch (websites).
An experimental study was conducted in a computer laboratory to examine users’ information seeking and foraging behaviour. In total, 160 university students participated in the research. Two types of task instructions, specifically defined and non-specifically defined (general) task types were administered. Mixed methods approach involving both quantitative and qualitative thematic coding were adopted, from the data of the questionnaire surveys and post-experiment interviews.
In the context of task attributes, users who conducted information seeking task with specifically defined instructions, as compared to the non-specifically defined instructions, demonstrated stricter credibility evaluations. Evidence demonstrated the link between topical knowledge and credibility perception. Users with topical knowledge applied critical credibility assessments than users without topical knowledge. Furthermore, the evidential results supported that the level of difficulty and knowledge of the topic or subject matter associated with users’ credibility evaluations. Users who have lesser or no subject knowledge and who experienced difficulty in the information search tended to be less diagnostic in their appraisal of the information patch (website or webpages). Users equipped with topical knowledge and who encountered less difficulty in the search, exhibited higher expectation and evaluative criteria of the information patch.
The constraints of time in the lab experiment, carried out in the presence of and under the observation of the researcher, may affect users’ information seeking behaviour. It would be beneficial to consider users’ information search gratifications and motivations in studying information evaluations and foraging patterns. There is scope to investigate users’ proficiency such as expert or novice, and individual learning styles in assessing information credibility.
Past studies on information evaluation, specifically credibility is often associated with users’ characteristics, source, or contents. This study sheds light on the context of task type, task difficulty and topical knowledge in affecting users’ information judgement.
One of the scarce studies in relating task orientation, task difficulty and topical knowledge to information evaluations.
Lee, H. and Pang, N. (2018), "Understanding the effects of task and topical knowledge in the evaluation of websites as information patch", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 No. 1, pp. 162-186. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-04-2017-0050Download as .RIS
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