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Attorneys Interacting with Legal Information Systems: Tools for Mental Model Building and Task Integration

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Anita Komlodi
Department of Information Systems, UMBC
1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, +1-410-455-3212,

Dagobert Soergel
College of Information Studies, University of Maryland
4105 Hornbake Bldg., College Park, MD 20742, +1-301-405-2037,

This paper reports (1) on the results of a user study and (2) search-history-based user interface tools developed based on the results of the study. The study examined legal information seekers?use of their memory and externally recorded search histories in searching for and using information. The results reported here focus on mental model development and task integration across searching for and using information. The interface tools described support the creation of external representations of mental models through organizational schemes, user notes and annotations, and search plans; and they provide transition paths to information use.

The research described is part of a dissertation (Komlodi 2002) that examined the use of search histories in legal information seeking and derived interface design recommendations for information storage and retrieval systems. Computers can automatically record human-computer interaction events, allow the user to manipulate this information, and provide it back to the searcher through the user interface. In order to understand how this information can best support information seekers, the role of their internal and external memory processes was examined using qualitative research methods (observations, interviews, participatory interface design sessions). The data collected was analyzed to identify potential task areas where search histories can support information seeking and use. The results show that many information-seeking tasks can take advantage of automatically and manually recorded history information, including mental model building of a topical area, the integration of searching for and using information, and integrating these into larger tasks contexts. Results of the study from the legal user group presented evidence of the usefulness of search histories and history-based interface tools. Both user manifestations and researcher observations revealed that searchers need history information in information seeking. These findings encouraged the design of user interface tools building on search history information: direct search history displays, history-enabled scratchpad facilities, and organized results collection tools were proposed to support users in their information seeking.
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