Full Text and Figure Display Improves Bioscience Literature Search
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009619
When reading bioscience journal articles, many researchers focus attention on the figures and their captions. This observation led to the development of the BioText literature search engine, a freely available Web-based application that allows biologists to search over the contents of Open Access Journals, and see figures from the articles displayed directly in the search results. This article presents a qualitative assessment of this system in the form of a usability study with 20 biologist participants using and commenting on the system. 19 out of 20 participants expressed a desire to use a bioscience literature search engine that displays articles' figures alongside the full text search results. 15 out of 20 participants said they would use a caption search and figure display interface either frequently or sometimes, while 4 said rarely and 1 said undecided. 10 out of 20 participants said they would use a tool for searching the text of tables and their captions either frequently or sometimes, while 7 said they would use it rarely if at all, 2 said they would never use it, and 1 was undecided. This study found evidence, supporting results of an earlier study, that bioscience literature search systems such as PubMed should show figures from articles alongside search results. It also found evidence that full text and captions should be searched along with the article title, metadata, and abstract. Finally, for a subset of users and information needs, allowing for explicit search within captions for figures and tables is a useful function, but it is not entirely clear how to cleanly integrate this within a more general literature search interface. Such a facility supports Open Access publishing efforts, as it requires access to full text of documents and the lifting of restrictions in order to show figures in the search interface.