User-based criteria for use and evaluation of alert services

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Management and Technology


Alerts, Alert services, User-based evaluation, Evaluating alerts

Subject Categories

Library and Information Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation investigates and describes professionals use and evaluation of information alert services. These services, most commonly referred to as 'alerts', are computer-based services that automatically distribute newly available items on a specified topic(s) to subscribers of the service.

This research addressed the following questions: What are the reasons for using alert services among professionals? How do professionals evaluate alert services? How does the overall satisfaction with alert services correlate with: the average overall requirements score for alert services; the average reasons for using alert services score; the number of items desired in alerts; and the average number of alert services used in the last month? In addition, using the data collected, a profile of professional alert service users was created.

A web-based survey was conducted in November of 2004. A nonprobabilistic sampling method was employed in cooperation with three commercial alert services, yielding 284 respondents.

Research findings include the following:

The top reasons professionals use alert services include monitoring very specific topics, saving time, obtaining new or novel information, keeping up to date on changes and trends in their field, and improving productivity. Most professionals share the information they receive in alerts with their colleagues.

Timeliness and relevance of alerts are the key evaluation criteria for professionals. Services are also evaluated on: ease of use, coverage of key sources and a broad range of sources, removal of duplicates from alerts, and cost. If the alerts received are not relevant, professionals will stop using a service. Additional key reasons why professionals will stop using a service include prohibitive cost, too many duplicates, dated information (timeliness), and too much information.

The vast majority of professionals are satisfied with their alert services. Satisfied users had more reasons for using alert services than non-satisfied users. Satisfied users also had more service requirements than non-satisfied users. There was no difference in the number of services used (2-3) or the number of items desired in an alert (5) between satisfied and non-satisfied user groups.


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