Adam Worrall

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Spring and Summer 2011, with Dr. Sanghee Oh

As part of my doctoral program at FSU’s School of Information, I am required to complete six credits of research collaboration with one or more professors. These are intended to give students a variety of research opportunities, especially if they have not been given the opportunity to be a graduate research assistant on a project or with a research center. Given that I was already working on an NSF-funded VOSS project studying virtual collaboration at and around the Magnet Lab, I wanted my research collaboration to be something different that still interested me, but did not simply duplicate my previous experiences.

My major professor and committee chair, Dr. Michelle Kazmer, suggested I seek out collaborations with professors not yet on my committee. At the time, Dr. Sanghee Oh was advertising a research assistant opportunity on a study evaluating answers to health questions posed on a social question-and-answer (Q&A) site (Yahoo! Answers). I inquired whether she would be open to my participation through a research collaboration, and after some discussion we came to an agreement and understanding. This is reflected in the research collaboration contract and associated forms that I was required to complete prior to enrolling.

Major Products

In my first semester of this collaboration, my first major task was to help with reviewing the literature in this area. Dr. Oh particularly wanted me to focus on literature that she had not included in her dissertation because it was too new or was in an area we had to explore further for this study. I read and wrote summary abstracts of a number of articles, entering these into a Zotero group created for the project; a report generated by Zotero of these abstracts is available for review.

My next task was to review further literature on different types of questions in social Q&A services and on health reference questions, focusing on different taxonomies and classification schema applied with the intention that this would help us select questions to be evaluated by our study participants. I wrote a report for Dr. Oh detailing my findings, which can be made available upon inquiry.

My third task was to help create a list of potential health reference librarians to contact as potential participants for the study. Through extensive searching and data mining online, I created such a list of contact information, which is available on request to my committee. Other researchers who may be interested in this list can contact myself or Dr. Sanghee Oh to inquire about its use.

In both the spring and summer semesters I also contributed greatly, alongside Dr. Oh’s research assistant Yong Jeong Yi, to constructing, selecting questions for, and administering a survey. This was completed by health reference librarians and questioners (those who posted questions in the Health category of Yahoo! Answers) as part of the study. Yong and I contacted librarians and questioners to ask if they would like to participate, sent them links to the survey if so, and also followed up with reminders and answered participants’ questions about the survey and study. I also helped with the associated forms required for human subjects approval of the study by the FSU Institutional Review Board. These forms and data are necessarily private, but may be able to be provided to my committee members upon request.

After I finished my research collaboration credits, I continued to work with Dr. Oh and Yong on analysis, presentation, and publication of our results. We presented a poster detailing our initial findings at the ASIST 2011 annual meeting in New Orleans, LA in October 2011 and presented a paper at the ASIST 2012 annual meeting in Baltimore in October 2012; see my publications for more details. Dr. Oh and I continued to work on further publications, resulting in the following two published articles on this research in peer-reviewed journals:

  • Worrall, A., & Oh, S. (2013). The place of health information and socio-emotional support in social questioning and answering. Information Research, 18(3). http://informationr.net/ir/18–3/paper587.html

    Explored the socio-emotional reactions of, advice given by, and evaluation criteria used by librarians, nurses, and users evaluating the quality of health answers posted on Yahoo! Answers. Users value social and emotional support and are more accepting than experts of the subjectivity of social Q&A sites. Both objective and subjective seeking and evaluation strategies are necessary.

  • Oh, S., & Worrall, A. (2013). Health answer quality evaluation by librarians, nurses, and users in social Q&A. Library and Information Science Research, 35(4), 288–298. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2013.04.007

    Investigated how librarians, nurses, and users evaluated the quality of health answers posted on Yahoo! Answers. Statistical analysis identified differences between the groups, how background characteristics influenced assessments, and relationships between content characteristics and quality evaluation criteria, with implications for research and practice.