Users' criteria for evaluation in multimedia information seeking and use situations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Transfer


multimedia information-seeking, information-seeking, user criteria

Subject Categories

Information and Library Science


The purpose of this study was to describe users' criteria for evaluation in multimedia information seeking and use situations. The criteria were considered to be dimensions of relevance, the central concept in information science. Although relevance judgments are fundamental to the design and evaluation of all information systems, their underlying meanings for users are not fully understood, nor are they well understood in multimedia (multiple-source, multiple-format) environments.

This study was an exploratory effort to address these issues by eliciting criteria directly from users describing their evaluations in their own information seeking and use situations. The first research question asked what criteria users mentioned when they evaluated the results of information searches in a multimedia environment. The second research question asked how users' evaluation criteria differed for the results of searches using different types of media in a multimedia environment.

Data were collected through open-ended interviews of 30 individuals employed in occupations in which they required information about the weather in order to make decisions. The interviews were audiotaped, the tapes transcribed, and the transcripts subjected to inductive content analysis in order to locate and categorize criteria.

The results described 32 categories of criteria identified in the interview transcripts and reported which criteria were mentioned in evaluations of seven types of sources and seven types of presentations accessed by users in their situations. Most criteria were mentioned regardless of the type of source or presentation being evaluated, but a few criteria were not mentioned at all for a few types of sources and presentations. The conclusions were that criteria relate to the situation as a whole and not to specific aspects (e.g., source) of the situation being evaluated, but that they do vary (in frequency of mention) depending on the specific aspect of the situation being evaluated.

The implications, based on the results of this study and previous studies, were that a finite, manageable range of criteria may exist for users in all types of information seeking and use situations, and that these criteria can be useful to the field both in theoretical development and in information system design and evaluation.


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