Searching with Tags: Do Tags Help Users Find Things?

Searching with Tags: Do Tags Help Users Find Things? Authors: Margaret E.I. Kipp, and D. Grant Campbell


This study examines the question of whether tags can be useful in the process of information retrieval. Participants searched a social bookmarking tool specialising in academic articles (CiteULike) and an online journal database (Pubmed). Participant actions were captured using screen capture software and they were asked to describe their search process. Users did make use of tags in their search process, as a guide to searching and as hyperlinks to potentially useful articles. However, users also made use of controlled vocabularies in the journal database to locate useful search terms and of links to related articles supplied by the database.

Good review of the literature, such as it is, on use of user supplied tagging for searching.

Worth reading on the question raised about the use of tags but there is another question lurking in the background.

The authors say in various forms:

The ability to discover useful resources is of increasing importance where web searches return 300 000 (or more) sites of unknown relevance and is equally important in the realm of digital libraries and article databases. The question of the ability to locate information is an old one and led directly to the creation of cataloguing and classification systems for the organisation of knowledge. However, such systems have not proven to be truly scalable when dealing with digital information and especially information on the web.

Since at least 1/3 of the web is pornography and that is not usually relevant to scientific, technical or medical searching, we can reduce the searching problem by 1/3 right there. I don’t know the percentage for shopping, email archives, etc., but when you come down to the “core” literature for field, it really isn’t all that large is it?


  1. Do search applications need to “scale” to web size or just enough to cover “core” literature? (discussion)
  2. For library science, how would you go about constructing a list of the “core” literature? (3-5 pages, no citations)
  3. If you use tagging, describe your experience with assigning tags. (3-5 pages, no citations)
  4. If you use tagging for searching purposes, describe your experience (3-5 pages, no citations)

First seen at: ResourceBlog

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