Can Genre Metadata Improve Information Retrieval?

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Connections: The 10th Annual Great Lakes Information Science Conference, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec (2005)

Drawing on Orlikowski & Yates' (1994) definition of genre as "a distinctive type of communicative action characterized by a socially recognized communicative purpose and common aspects of form," we aim to improve our understanding of the relationship between persons in certain work-related discourse communities (or, in Niklas Luhmann's terms, "social systems") and the communicative genres encompassed in the web documents they use. Understanding this relationship is important because the implicit or explicit recognition of document genre by users has been shown to improve document usability and aid in the production of web documents (Yates & Sumner, 1997). The first stage of our research is richly descriptive in nature: our goal is to identify, describe and classify (a) web document genres used by persons in three different social systems (grade- and high-school teachers, journalists and medical residents) and (b) the work tasks associated with these genres. Our data collection methods will be largely inductive and will involve observation of and interviews with targeted users in their work environment. Analyses will rely on content-analytic methods (Katz, 1966) applied to a foundation of user descriptions and researchers' notes. The resulting classification of web document genres and associated tasks will be faceted in nature (see, e.g., Kwasnik, 1992, for a discussion of its advantages) and, it is hoped, sufficiently flexible to accommodate future, unanticipated web document genres. A presentation at Connections 2005 will report on the progress of this two-year, NSF-funded study that began in October 2004.