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Using the repertory grid and laddering technique to determine the user's evaluative model of search engines

Crudge, Sarah E. and Johnson, Frances C. (2007) Using the repertory grid and laddering technique to determine the user's evaluative model of search engines. Journal of Documentation, 63 (2). pp. 259-280. ISSN 0022-0418

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this research is to explore a method for the determination of users' representations of search engines, formed during their interaction with these systems. Determines the extent to which these elicited “mental models” indicate the system aspects of importance to the user and from this their evaluative view of these tools. Design/methodology/approach – The repertory grid technique is used to elicit a set of constructs that define facets within the mental model of an individual. A related technique of laddering then considers each of the user's constructs to determine the reasons for its importance within the user's mental model. Findings – The model derived from the qualitative data comprises three hierarchical strata and conveys the interrelations between basic system description, evaluative description, and the key evaluations of ease, efficiency, effort and effectiveness. Two additional layers relating to the perceived process and the experience of emotion are also discussed. Research limitations/implications – Ten participants is considered to be optimum for obtaining constructs in a repertory grid, but limits the findings to the context of the user group and the systems used in this study. Originality/value – The methodology has not previously been used to determine mental models of search engines and from these to understand users' evaluative view of systems. The resulting model of key evaluations with the conjunctions of procedural elements suggests a framework for further research to evaluate search engines from the user perspective.

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