MAR 17

What's Format Got to Do with It? The Role Information Formats Play in Evaluating Search Results

This webinar presents research on the role information formats play in student evaluation of search results and identifies practical applications for libraries of all types.

This event has passed.

In the deluge of online information, it's difficult for your users to identify the different information formats associated with the resources they find. A single resource has numerous elements of format, some related to where and how it was published, as well as how it conveys information. For example, an article may appear in a newspaper or a magazine or a journal, and in addition to text, it may contain images, data visualizations, or even video. These format elements can affect how a user judges information resources. They can tell users about how and why the information was created, how they should use it, and how trustworthy it might be.

Yet, there is not a good vocabulary for describing or discussing the impact elements of format can have on information evaluation. Instead users are left with a "know-it-when-they-see-it" understanding of format types. A recent research project has attempted to address this issue by developing the concept of "containers" and locating it within a descriptive taxonomy of other format elements, and examining how students (4th grade – graduate school) choose resources for assignments. Presenters will discuss findings from the research study, including the role of format in the evaluation of web search results and how they are incorporating the findings into their own concepts and practice.

View the recording to learn how the concepts and findings can be used by staff in all types of libraries. Whether it’s helping users better understand their information needs, find relevant content, or evaluate online information, understanding their behavior and the environment in which they’re searching will help you better meet their information needs.

Presented by: Brittany Brannon, Research Support Specialist, OCLC Research; Tara Tobin Cataldo, Biological Sciences Librarian, University of Florida; Robin Kear, Liaison Librarian, English, University of Pittsburgh; and Ixchel Faniel, Senior Research Scientist OCLC Research

Access Recording

Webinar Attachments

Related Resources and Links

  • Researching Students’ Information Choices: Determining Identity and Judging Credibility in Digital Spaces is a 3-year research project partnership with the University of Florida, Rutgers University and OCLC Research, and funded by IMLS. Project information is also available at OCLC Research
  • Search engine simulation video (1 minute)
  • Buhler, A. and Cataldo, T. (2016) Identifying E-Resources: An Exploratory Study of University Students. Library Resources & Technical Services 60(1).
  • Buhler, A., Faniel, I., Brannon, B., Cyr, C., Cataldo, T., Connaway, L., Valenza, J., Elrod, R., Graff, R., Putnam, S. R., Hood, E. M., & Langer, K. (2019). Container collapse and the information remix: Students’ evaluations of scientific research recast in scholarly vs. popular sources. Paper presented at the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Conference, Cleveland, OH. Retrieved from
  • Cataldo, T., Buhler, A., Faniel, I., Brannon, B., Silipigni Connaway, L., Cyr, C., Langer, K., Hood, E., Valenza, J., Elrod, R., Graff, R., Putnam, S. and Howland, S. (2020) Mixed methods data collection using simulated Google results: Reflections on the methodology of a point-of-selection behaviour study. Information Research 25(4).
  • Cyr, C., Cataldo, T. T., Brannon, B., Buhler, A., Faniel, I., Connaway, L. S., Valenza, J., Elrod, R., & Putnam, S. (2021). Backgrounds and behaviors: Which students successfully identify online resources in the face of container collapse. First Monday 26(3).
  • Valenza, J., Elrod, R., Buhler, A., Cataldo, T., Faniel, I., Silipigni Connaway, L., Graff, R., Putnam, S., Brannon, B., Cyr, C., & Hood. E. (Nov. 15, 2019). From research to action: Kids and Google: What we learned and how to respond with our shared foundations. American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Conference, Louisville, KY.
  • Additional links shared in chat:


17 March 2021


3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Eastern Daylight Time, North America [UTC -4]

Webinar presenter Brittany Brannon

Webinar presenter Tara Tobin Cataldo

Webinar presenter Robin Kear

Webinar presenter Ixchel Faniel