Precision vs Recall - different information needs - different searching techniques.
Precision retrievingwhatyou need
Recall retrievingallyou need
Precision and recall are inversely proportional
A high precision search ...
Finds few items (low recall) but most, if not all, will be exactly what you need.
Can be as easy as typing in a few keywords and taking the top one or two results.
Takes relatively little time and effort.
Information comes from only one or two authoritative sources.
Gives you the specific piece of information you need.
Used for finding facts, formulas and citations.
A high recall search ...
Finds many items; some will be exactly what is needed while the rest will contain only part of what is needed (low precision).
Requires extensive keyword, synonym, controlled vocabulary, author, and citation searching in multiple databases.
Involves much time and effort.
Information comes from multiple sources in multiple formats.
Gives you the reasonable expectation of having found everything.
Used for literature reviews and problem solving.
When confronted with an information question, you need to decide how to balance the need for precision with the need for an appropriate level of recall. The higher the recall needed, the more you need to employ good literature review skills.
How to do a High Recall Search
Identify what you are searching for.
Express the question/problem as a simple sentence or PICO statement
Refine broad topics into a more manageable size
Identify the type of documents in which your information will likely be found:
Articles in Journals and Magazines
Dissertations and Theses
Handbooks or Manuals
Papers presented at Conferences
Search in the library resources (note the plural) that cover the type of documents in your subject area, by ...
Your Words (from your statement above)
Their Words (how the authors describe your topic)
Databases' words (controlled vocabulary)
Good searching skills are important to employers
Knowing how to do a thorough literature review is not just "school work". Whether you go into academics or work as a professional scientist or engineer, being able to find the necessary information efficiently is a highly desired skill and one that employers expect you to bring with you from college.
"The employers ... said they expected young hires to be patient but persistent researchers.
Specifically, employers said they needed them to be capable of engaging co-workers in an interative research process, retrieving information in a variety of formats, identifying patterns in an array of sources, and diving into sources of information.
Yet these information competencies were rarely demonstrated ... [young hires] had a tendency to respond too quickly with answers conventiently plucked from the nearest source. At worst, [young hires] solved information problems with a lightning quick Google search, a scan of the first couple of pages of results, and a linear answer finding approach."
Those desired information skills mentioned by employers are the same ones used in high recall searching to ensure the necessary thoroughness: interative research process, variety of formats, array of sources, etc.
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