Hypertext versus Boolean access to biomedical information: a comparison of effectiveness, efficiency, and user preferences

Barbara M. Wildemuth, Charles P. Friedman, Stephen M. Downs
1998 ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction  
This study compared two modes of access to a biomedical database, in terms of their effectiveness and efficiency in supporting clinical problem solving and in terms of user preferences. Boolean access, which allowed subjects to frame their queries as combinations of keywords, was compared to hypertext access, which allowed subjects to navigate from one database node to another. The accessible biomedical data were identical across system versions. Performance data were collected from two cohorts
more » ... of first-year medical students, each student randomly assigned to either the Boolean or the hypertext system. Additional attitudinal data were collected from the second cohort. At each of two research sessions (one just before and one just after their bacteriology course), subjects worked eight clinical case problems, first using only their personal knowledge and, subsequently, with aid from the database. Database retrievals enabled students to answer questions they could not answer based on personal knowledge alone. This effect was greater when personal knowledge of bacteriology was lower. There were not statistically significant differences between the two forms of access, in terms of problem-solving effectiveness or efficiency. Students preferred Boolean access over hypertext access.
doi:10.1145/287675.287677 fatcat:7x3a7h64ivb5dnvc5rdigk6wky