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Information Search Tactics

By Marcia J. Bates
School of Librarianship, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

Journal of the American Society for Information Science, v. 30, July 1979, p. 205-214

Received September 12, 1978; revised February 12, 1979. © 1979 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

As part of the study of human information search strategy, the concept of the search tactic, or move made to further a search, is introduced. Twenty-nine tactics are named, defined, and discussed in four categories: monitoring, file structure, search formulation, and term. Implications of the search tactics for research in search strategy are considered. The search tactics are intended to be practically useful in information searching. This approach to searching is designed to be general, yet nontrivial; it is applicable to both bibliographic and reference searches and in both manual and on-line systems.
For all the developments in automated and semiautomated information retrieval, nothing yet matches the ability of experienced human searchers—whether known as “information specialists” or “reference librarians”—who move skillfully among an enormous range of resources, both manual and on-line, to develop bibliographies or answer questions. We know discouragingly little about just what those skills are and how they develop; we cannot yet define what it is that an experienced searcher knows that a beginner does not.
In this article, the concept of the information search tactic is introduced and various particular tactics are named and described. These tactics are designed to be of assistance to the searcher while in the process of searching, and secondarily in teaching fledgling searchers their work. They may also suggest various lines of research on search strategy, including, ultimately, efforts to describe and distinguish the skills of the experienced searcher.
The plan of this article is first to give a brief literature review of human information...


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