Online catalogue research and the verbal protocol method

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The verbal protocol method is used extensively in computer usability studies. This study was designed to test the feasibility of using the verbal protocol method as a means of conducting field research on the online catalogue. Ten undergraduate students conducted their own research on DRA's Infogate. As they searched, they talked aloud about what keys they were pressing, what was happening on the screen, and their reactions. Transcripts of sessions were analyzed. A total of 65 different problems or comments were noted during search sessions, with 11 problems or comments noted in three or more sessions. This supports the hypothesis that the verbal protocol method is a valuable means of identifying common problems for users. It is suggested that the verbal protocol method offers great potential as a research tool in librarianship, for example in the area of interface design.
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