The use of word association testing in the construction of information retrieval thesauri



All library staff members are invited to participate in a study that examines the feasibility of using word association tests in the construction of more user-centered thesauri. One of the most pressing challenges faced by thesaurus designers is to create term hierarchies that will be intuitive to the end-users of the thesauri; e.g., is it obvious that the term freedom is a broader term for civil rights, or would the reverse be actually truer for some searchers? Is de facto relationships an obvious equivalent term for living together or cohabitation? How can thesaurus designers determine the most typical, or “prototype” ways in which searchers are likely to associate terms with a given concept? Word association testing has been used in cognitive psychology and in the design of ontologies to ascertain how people group terms around central concepts.  In typical word association tests, participants are asked to note the first words that come to mind in response to a particular stimulus term.


If interested in participating, you will be provided with a set of 15 stimulus terms from the domain of Library and Information Studies. For each stimulus term, you will be asked to spend no more than 2 minutes to write down any response words that you think are related to the term and to specify how you think these terms are inter-related.  There are no right or wrong answers, nor a minimum or maximum number of response words. You will not be asked to identify yourself on the word association test.  Please rest assured that your identity will not be revealed in any reports or publications and that you are free to withdraw your participation at any time. 


If you have any questions and/or are interested in participating in this study, please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your consideration.


Louise Spiteri, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

School of Library and Information Studies

Dalhousie University

Halifax, NS. B3J 3H5

(902) 494-2473

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