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Evaluating e reference


Description of a systematic review and evidence based librarianship related to virtual reference services.

Description of a systematic review and evidence based librarianship related to virtual reference services.

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  • Important to determine at the beginning of the studies to provide some organized structure for future work. It helps to minimize the bias for inclusion of some articles; it can be verifiable by the readers who would like to make sure that the authors did adhere to the selected criteria. There’s also something that is called “publication bias”; it means that often the studies with the positive results get to be published more often that the studies with the negative results or often such studies are published in the journals that are of a least importance and not indexed properly in major databases.
  • In our example we knew right away that we would like to stay clear off the articles that talked about implementation of the electronic reference or establishing such service. We wanted to avoid reviews or book reviews as they were not original studies. Some articles examined the demographic parameters of their users – for example how many female vs. male patrons used the IM services or what was their age, etc. We felt as though it is not important to the main idea of our study of user satisfaction. We also knew that we won’t be able to read raticles in non-English language, so those were excluded as well.With the inclusion criteria we tried to come up with some clear parameters that helped us to identify the initial group of articles to examine. It helped a lot, in fact.
  • For this part of the process the tool was needed. Different researchers approach this in different ways: some look for existing tools, some came up with their own questions that better suit their topics.
  • Each of the four sections contains from 5 to 8 questions. For example, the population section questions whether the study population is representative of all the users, actual and eligible, whether inclusion/exclusion criteria definitely outlined, sample size, whether the population choice is bias-free, etc. Answering these questions can be difficult – we spent a lot of time doing it first on our own and then together, discussing the articles over and over.


  • 1. Evaluating E-Reference: An Evidence Based Approach
    Elaine Lasda Bergman and Irina I. Holden
    University at Albany
    Presentation for Reference Renaissance
    Denver, CO August 10, 2010
  • 2. Overview
    What is Evidence Based Librarianship?
    What constitutes “evidence?”
    Systematic reviews and analyses
    Systematic Review Process
    Research question
    Database Search
    Article Review
    Critical Appraisal
    Synthesize, analyze, discuss
  • 3. Overview
    Results of our review
    Methods of determining user satisfaction
    Comparison of variables
    Range of results
    Conclusions, lessons learned
    About evidence based librarianship
    About research quality
    About user satisfaction with electronic reference
  • 4. What is Evidence Based Librarianship?
    • Booth and Brice’s definition of Evidence Based Information Practice:
    • 5. “The Retrieval of rigorous and reliable evidence to inform… decision making”
    (Booth and Brice, ix)
  • 6. What is Evidence Based Librarianship (EBL)?
    Gained traction in Medical fields in 1990’s and spread to social sciences after that
    Medical librarians were the first to bring this approach to LIS research
    Increasingly used in social sciences and information/library science
    Sources: Booth and Brice, ix.
  • 7. Don’t we ALREADY use “evidence”?
    Evidence is “out there, somewhere”
    Disparate locations: many different journals, many different researchers
    Evidence is not summarized, readily available and synthesized
    No formal, systematized, concerted effort to quantify and understand if there is a pattern or just our general sense of things
  • 8. Heirarchy of “Evidence”
    Source: http://ebp.lib.uic.edu/applied_health/?q=node/12
  • 9. Systematic Reviews vs. Literature Reviews
  • 10. Systematic Reviews: When Are They Useful?
    Too much information in disparate sources
    Too little information, hard to find all of the research
    Help achieve consensus on debatable issues
    Plan for new research
    Provide teaching/learning materials
  • 11. Process of Systematic Review
    • Formulate Research Question
    • 12. Database Search
    • 13. Review Results
    • 14. Critical Appraisal
    • 15. Analysis
  • Research Questions
    Research question formulation
    Description of the parties involved in the studies (librarians and patrons, for ex.)
    What was being studied (effectiveness of instructional mode, for ex.)
    The outcomes and how they can be compared
    What data should be collected for this purpose (either student surveys or pre/post tests, etc.)
  • 16. Our Research Questions
    1. What is the level of satisfaction of patrons who utilize digital reference?
    2. What are the measures researchers use to quantify user satisfaction and how do they compare?
  • 17. Database Search
    LISTA (EBSCO platform): 123 articles retrieved
    LISA (CSA platform): 209 articles retrieved
    ERIC: no unique studies retrieved
  • 18. Working with Results
    279 Results after de-duplication
    Only format retrieved: journal articles
    Abstracts were reviewed applying inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • 19. Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria
    Should be pre-determined at the beginning of the study
    Minimizes bias
    Allows outside verification of why studies were included/excluded
  • 20. Sample Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria
    Peer reviewed journals
    Articles comparing e-reference with face-to-face reference
    Articles on academic, public and special libraries
    Articles on e-mail, IM, and “chat” reference
    Articles describing how to implement digital reference programs
    Articles discussing quantitative or demographic data only
    Reviews, editorials and commentary
    Non-English articles
  • 21. Working with Results
    93 articles were selected based on inclusion/exclusion criteria
    Full text was obtained and read by both authors independently to determine if at least one variable pertaining to user satisfaction was present; then the results were compared
  • 22. Results of Full Text Review
  • 23. Critical Appraisal Tools
    QUOROM (The Lancet, 1999, vol. 354, 1896-1900)
    Downs-Black scale (“Checklist for study quality”)
    CriSTAL (Critical Skills Training in Appraisal for Librarians (Andrew Booth)
  • 24. Glynn’s Critical Appraisal Tool
    Data collection
    Study design
  • 25. Critical Appraisal Process
    24 articles were subjected to critical appraisal
    Each question from Glynn’s tool was answered (either yes, no, unclear or N/A) and the results were calculated
    12 research papers selected and subjected to the systematic review
  • 26. Analysis (Findings of Review)
    Settings and general characteristics:
    Multiple instruments in a single article
    9 unique journals
    US based
    Methods and timing of data collection
    7 paper surveys
    3 pop up surveys
    3 transcript analysis
  • 27. Similar Variables in Surveys
    “Willingness to return”
    11 surveys of all instruments (Nilsen)
    Staff person vs service
    “Have you used it before?”
    Ranged from 30%-69% (email)
    Positivity of experience
    7 point, 4 point, 3 point scales
    65% - 98.2% (email, small group)
    14-417 respondents
    Staff quality
    7 point, 4 point, 3 point scales
    68% - 92.8% (14 respondents)
  • 28. Analysis
    Other questions in obtrusive studies
    “Were you satisfied?”
    “Would you recommend to a colleague?”
    each only asked in only 1 of the studies
  • 29. Analysis:
    Reason for variation:
    Nature of questions asked is contingent on context in which satisfaction was measured
    [correlate to guidelines, librarian behaviors, reference interviews, etc.]
  • 30. Unobtrusive studies: Transcript Analysis
    2 Basic Methods:
    Transcript analysis by person asking the question (proxy patron) (Schachaf and Horowitz, 2008, Sugimoto, 2008).
    75% “complete”, 68% “mostly incomplete”
    Transcripts independently assessed for quality and coded (Marsteller and Mizzy, 2003, Schachaf and Horowitz, 2008)
    3 point scale, “+ or –” scale
    2.24 out of 3 (level of quality); 5 negatives/200 transactions
    Research question: Efficacy of third party assessors vs. user surveys
  • 31. Lessons Learned
    Lessons about user satisfaction with electronic reference:
    Overall pattern of users being satisfied, regardless of methodology or questions asked
    Measurement of user satisfaction is contingent upon context
    Researchers most often try to connect user satisfaction to another variable, satisfaction the sole focus of only one article
  • 32. Lessons Learned
    Lessons about library research
    Extensive amount of qualitative research makes performing systematic reviews challenging
    Inconsistency of methodologies used in original research makes the systematic review challenging, meta-analysis is more often than not impossible
    Common pitfalls in LIS research that affect the quality of the published article
  • 33. Lessons Learned
    Benefits of undertaking a systematic review:
    Sharpens literature searching skills: benefits for both librarians and their patrons who need this kind of research
    Researcher gains the ability to critically appraise research
    The practice of librarianship is strengthened by basing decisions on a methodological assessment of evidence
  • 34. Systematic Reviews and EBL:Impact on the Profession
    Formal gathering and synthesis of evidence may:
    Affirm our intuitive sense about the patterns in current research
    Refine, clarify and enhance a more robust understanding of a current problem in librarianship
    May, on occasion, provide surprising results!
  • 35. Questions?http://www.slideshare.net/librarian68
    Elaine M. Lasda Bergman
    Irina I. Holden