The Search Strategy Process from the Time of the Presentation of a Query to the Time it is Answered

Etiwel Mutero
The search strategy is one of the elements in the reference service of the library. The aims of the search strategy are to produce satisfactory, accurate and useful results. In this paper, the author is going to discuss the search strategy process from the time of the presentation of a query to the time that it is answered.
The search strategy is the skill that helps the information seeker to get accurate and relevant information. The search strategy encompasses several steps and levels of work in information retrieved.
Chowdlury (1999:) mentions that there are many issues that there are many issues that need to be considered while formulating them  as; the concepts or facts to be searched and their order, the terms that appropriately represent (s) the search concept, the feature(s) of the retrieval system concerned, and the measures to be taken in revising a search statement.
The first step in the search strategy process is the pre-search interviews. Chowdhury (1999 ;) says the results of a search depend heavily upon the correct understanding of the user’s precise needs. This understanding can be developed through a pre-search interview. A pre-search interview is a conversation that takes place between a user and member of the information staff regarding the actual information requirements of the actual information requirement of the user. Somervill lists the following skills that the successful pre-search interviewer should possess; ability to conduct personal communication, conceptional skills, analytical skills, knowledge of file organisation, and understanding of indexing policy and vocabulary control, and subject knowledge.
The aim of the pre-search interview is to get the user’s need. The user’s need is the perceived need for information that leads to someone using an information retrieval system in the first place. Dearman et al (2008) defines the user’s need as “When an individual requires any information to complete at task or to satisfy the curiosity of the mind…..” Lastly  Wilson (1981) explains that “when we talk of user’s information needs we should not have in mind some conception of fundamental, innate, cognitive or emotional need for information, but a conception of information (facts, data, option, advice as one means towards the end  of satisfying such fundamental need.” This task of exploring the user’s need is termed initialization by Uuhlthan (1991:361-371).
The second step in the search strategy called sense making. It is convenient to divided the entire information access into two main components; information retrieval through searching and browsing, and analysis and synthetic of results. This broader process is often referred to in the literature as sensemaking Russell et al 1993; (269-276)
Sensemaking refers to an iterative process of formulating a conceptual representation from of a large volume of information. Search plays only one part in the process; some sensemaking activities involve search throughout while others consists of doing a batch of search followed by a batch of analysis and synthesis. 
Developing a god search strategy requires knowledge about the nature of the organisation, of the user. There are three winds of search which can be used to get information. These are: High recall search- when the user needs to find out all the relevant items on the stated topics, high precision search – when the user needs only relevant items, i.e. as small a number of non- relevant items is possible and brief search- when the user wants only a few relevant items as opposed to all the relevant items.
A database may comprise controlled on uncontrolled vocabulary. Clenrdon mentions that a user searching a database that has controlled index languages must perform the following: Decide the words that might be used by the authors of the relevant documents, decide which particular database(s) to be searched, use the thesaurus of the chosen database in order to translate the query terms in the appropriate way, guess which of the chosen term (or concepts)  might have been used by the database indexer, coordinate the terms  often using Boolean operators to formulate the search statement, input the search statement, repeat steps 5 and 6 until a desirable output is  obtained or the search fails altogether, and identify the actual relevant items from among those retrieved.
It should be remembered that in most computerises information retrieval systems, the judgement as to whether a document is relevant or not to a given query is based on the topicality or lexical similarity between the query terms and the document space. Various Mathematical modules have been proposed to represent information retrieval systems and procedures. These include the query statements with the term set used to represent document contented; the probabilities retrieval model, which is based on the computation of collection; the vector processing model, which represents both documents and queries by terms sets and compares global similarities between queries and documents; and best-match searching which compares query terms with documents representations and produces a ranked list of output.
The above second stage searching is sometimes called selection and exploration. The selection is a task to select the general and undifferentiated, and centres on requirements, and line constraints while the exploration phase is where a focused perspective on the topic emerges, resolving some of the conflicting information.
The final stage in the search strategy process is the presentation stage. In this phase, the final searches are done; search should be returning information that is either redundant with what has been seen before on of diminishing relevance. The actual answer or result is collected and presented to the user.
As already pointed out, the results of a search depend heavily upon the correct understanding of the user’s precise needs. Thus the search strategy process which comprises of the pre-search interview, the sensemaking phase or selection and exploration, collection and presentation phase are there to satisfy the user’s precise needs.

Chowdhury, (1999), Introduction to Modern Information action Retrieval, Library Association Publishing, UK
Somerville, (1977) “The  place of all reference interview in computer searching: The Academic Setting: Online,1(4)
Cleverdon, (1988), “Optimizing Convenient online access to bibliographic databases,” London
Kuhlthan, (1991), “inside the search Process; ‘information action seeling from the user’s perspective.’ Journal of the American Society for Information Science
Wilson, (1981), “on user studies and Information need. Journal of Librarianship. Available at http://

Etiwel Mutero holds a Bsc Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management from the Zimbabwe Open University.Do you want assistance in writing your college or university assignment? You can contact Etiwel Mutero on 00263773614293 or

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