"Researchers and practitioners should consider browsing
as a rich and fundamental human information behavior."
(Chang and Rice, 1993: 263)
We agree with Chang and Rice that:
"Browsing is common... [W]e all browse in
the various contexts to make sense of the world
around us, such as as when we read newspapers,
scan television channels, go window shopping,
or seek information in libraries[emphasis
added] (Chang and Rice, 1993:232).
In citing the work of Herner, Bates, and others, they recognize the
importance of browsing in human information seeking and highlight the need
for information scientists to incorporate this approach in their system
designs (Chang and Rice, 1993:232-233). Their summary of critiques of 'specific,
direct searching' supports the need for browsable interfaces:
"[There are] some unrealistic assumptions about
users and the nature of information seeking - e.g.
that users have unbounded rationality, have static
and well-defined information needs, know what they want
and are output oriented ..." (Chang and Rice, 1993:233)
Their clear articulation of the uncertainty that some users experience in the
search process further supports this option:
"...[U]sers are often in an anomalous state of
knowledge as they initiate a search..., do not have
predefined search criteria, and may alter their
interests during a search ...(Chang and Rice, 1993:233)
Their observations of end-user searching is particularly relevant to the
decision to organize selected resources within a browsable, categorized scheme:
"Many end-user systems are difficult to use because
they require training, knowledge of mechanical and
conceptual aspects of searching, and high a cognitive
load from end users... [A]ll of these may be overcome
through browsing... (Chang and Rice, 1993:233)
Individuals seeking a review of key works on browsing in information
systems are referred to the recent annotated bibliography on the subject by Kurth and Peters
(Kurth and Peters, 1995)
Shan-ju Chang and Ronald E. Rice, "Browsing: a multidimensional framework,"
Annual review of information science and technology 28:231-276 (1993).
Martin Kurth and Thomas A Peters, "Browsing in information systems: an
extensive annotated bibliography of the literature," Library hi tech
bibliography 10: x, 275 (1995).