Unanswerable Questions: What Do You Do with Challenging Health Reference Questions?

Lee, Angela
Dennison, Carolyn Ching
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Objectives: Describe the characteristics of challenging health reference questions and propose ways to improve one's chances of finding answers. This study will identify the range of questions (e.g., question types, answer quality, user satisfaction) presented in online community forums like MEDLIB-L. It will duplicate a similar study in 2004 that analyzed MEDLIB-L messages but will focus on reference questions. Methods: This study will analyze messages posted in MEDLIB-L from January 2012 to December 2012. Announcements, citation verifications, document delivery requests, and chat discussions will be excluded from the analysis. The remaining messages will be analyzed and classified according to question type, response given, response quality, and user satisfaction. Messages will be coded using a modified classification system based on Cheri Smith's 2004 study of the culture of MEDLIB-L. Identified categories include: topical search, statistical data, practice guidelines, standards, product reviews, measurement tools/tests, skills training, grants, and administrative/organizational. Once messages are categorized, a content analysis will be conducted to identify key patterns and clues for how librarians and information specialists can find answers to difficult reference questions.
A poster presented at Building Our Information Future, MLA '14, the 2014 annual meeting of the Medical Library Association on May 20, 2015. Chicago, Illinois.
Reference Services, Library Research, User Needs (Information), Content Analysis, Information Seeking, Information Needs, Medical Libraries
Lee A, Dennison CC. Unanswerable questions: what do you do with challenging health reference questions? Poster session presented at: Building our information future. MLA '14: Medical Library Association Annual Meeting; 2014 May 16-21; Chicago, IL.
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