Hassan, Luna (2013) Assessing the Information Needs of Historians Working with Digitised Primary Sources in the UK: A Sequential Mixed Methods Study. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The way that historians do research has changed as more and more digitised primary sources have become available online. Whilst desktop access to historical resources is becoming the norm in the digital age, many historians prefer working with original sources. This observation triggered an investigation into the information needs and behaviour of historians with a view to identifying ways in which information retrieval system (IRS) might be enhanced to meet their specific needs. During the investigation it became apparent that the information-seeking behaviour (ISB) of historians involves a great deal of creative thinking and that IRS aimed at historians would benefit from features specifically designed to stimulate their creativity. The research described here follows a “mixed methods” approach in which quantitative and qualitative research techniques have been applied sequentially. The first, quantitative, phase of the study concerned the question of which format of primary sources (original or digitised) historians prefer to work with and why. Results from an online questionnaire, distributed to historians in the UK, revealed the historians’ preference for originals but with a very positive attitude towards digitised sources, which were considered to be more “useful”. This led the study to explore ways in which the “usefulness” of IRS could be further improved to support historical research. The exploration of these issues involved a qualitative analysis based on “grounded theory” techniques and led to certain specific recommendations to the designers of future IRS intended to support historical research.

PhD_Thesis-Luna_Oct_2013.pdf - Accepted Version
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