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Search engine queries used to locate electronic theses and dissertations: Differences for local and non-local users

Mildred Coates (University Libraries, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 11 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine two research questions: What search engine queries lead users to the Auburn University electronic theses and dissertations (AUETDs) collection? Do these queries vary for users in different locations and, if so, how?


Search engine queries used to locate the AUETDs collection were obtained from Google Analytics and were separated into groups based on user location. These queries were assigned to empirically derived categories based on their content.


Most local users’ queries contained person names, variants for thesis or dissertation, and variants for Auburn University. Over a third were queries for the AUETDs collection, while the remainder were seeking theses and dissertations from specific Auburn researchers. Most out-of-state users’ queries contained title and subject keywords and appeared to be seeking specific research studies. Queries from users located within the state but outside of the local area were intermediate between these groups.

Practical implications

Over two-thirds of visits to the AUETDs collection were made by search engine users which reinforces the importance of having repository content indexed by search engines such as Google. The specificity of their queries indicates that full-text indexing will be more helpful to users than metadata indexing alone.


This is the first detailed analysis of search engine queries used to locate an ETDs collection. It may also be the last, as query content for the major search engines is no longer available from Google Analytics.



Coates, M. (2014), "Search engine queries used to locate electronic theses and dissertations: Differences for local and non-local users", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 667-686.



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