Information retrieval (IR) is the area of study concerned with searching for documents, for information within documents, and for metadata about documents, as well as that of searching structured storage, relational databases, and the World Wide Web. There is overlap in the usage of the terms data retrieval, document retrieval, information retrieval, and text retrieval, but each also has its own body of literature, theory, praxis, and technologies. IR is interdisciplinary, based on computer science, mathematics, library science, information science, information architecture, cognitive psychology, linguistics, statistics and law (Singhal, 2001).
Automated information retrieval systems are used to reduce what has been called “information overload“. Many universities and public libraries use IR systems to provide access to books, journals and other documents. Web search engines are the most visible IR applications.IR in a digital environment is strongly affected by the IR system, the user, the information and the environment.
Walker and Janes (1999) identified the uniqueness of online IR system:
- First, online searches are conducted in real time. Users can search and obtain results almost immediately.
- Secondly, online IR systems offer remote access. Users can search at any location as long as there is internet connection.
The typical online IR systems can be classified into the following four types:
- Online Database Environments
- OPAC Environments
- Digital Library Environments
- Web Search Engine Environments
The Online Database Environment is a database of either full-text documents or citations and abstracts accessible via telephone or internet connection. The online industry is responsible for the development, design, dissemination and use of online database and services. It consists of three basic elements: database producers, online vendors, and information searches.
An OPAC Environment: Online Public Access Catalogue is an access tool and resource guide to the collection of a Library or Libraries which contains interrelated sets of bibliographic data in a machine-readable form and which can be searched interactively on a terminal by users (Fayen, 1983, p.4).
Digital Library Environment is a broad term used to define an information retrieval system that permit timely access to electronic information in the same way that physical libraries are traditionally provided access to print-based and other tangible information resources.
Fox, Akscyn, Furuta and Leggett (1995) summarized different perceptions of digital libraries by the key players in digital libraries: librarians, computer scientists, and users. To librarians, digital libraries carry out the functions of libraries in a new way; to computer scientists, a digital library is a distributed text-based information system; a collection of distributed information services, a distributed space of interlinked information, or a networked multimedia information services, to end users, digital libraries are regarded as similar to the World Wide Web (WWW) with improvements in performance, organization, functionality and usability.
Web Search Engine Environment is a tool designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The search results are usually presented in a list and are commonly called hits. The information may consist of web pages, images, information and other types of files. Some search engines also mine data available in databases or open directories.
Berners-Lee 1989, 1996 invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989 and developed it online in 1991 by using a hypertext model. In 1996 he defined the components of the web: the boundless information world, the address system (URL: Uniform Resource Locator), a network protocol (HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol), a mark-up language (HTML: Hypertext Mark-up Protocol), a body of data and the client-server architecture of the web.
Concurrently with the above development by Berners-Lee came the creation of Mosaic in 1993. This was a graphic Web interface that was the precursor of Netscape which enabled millions of people to easily access the Web. Since then, increase in Web resources has been phenomenal and this has created the need for a system for navigating the Web resources.
The emergence of the Web signifies the era of end users. In IR history, this is the first time that millions of users have been able to search for online information themselves without help from intermediaries. (Sullivan, 2006), a global leader in Internet media and market research, reported that the volume on Internet search queries grew to more than 5.1 billion by October 2005; the top five search engines are Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Ask Jeeves.
1.2 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
In recent years, Internet usage has grown tremendously around the world with most users surfing the Web for various forms of information. The World Wide Web remains the most important and popular source of information in the world today.
This project presents a theoretical overview of the Online IR system and its navigation system (the Web Search Engines). Recent literature and current developments in this aspect of Information Science are also reviewed. A Case study is carried out to determine the usage of this important source of information among Federal Civil Servants in Nigeria.
Federal civil servants run the administrative and policy-making engine of the Federal Government of Nigeria. To be effective in this important task federal civil servants have to be well informed. This means there is the need for them to use the Online IR system to access information which they need to carry out their daily activities effectively.
However, the extent of Internet usage by Federal Civil Servants is not well documented. A large number of this works was carried out in Abuja and this, therefore, presents a good environment to find out how they use the Online IR system to navigate the Web. The ability of Federal Civil Servants to have an effective Online Information Retrieval System, therefore, presents a challenge in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and explains why this project is pertinent.
1.3 THE PROBLEM STATEMENT
This project will focus on the main problem facing the use of the Internet as a source of information among Federal Civil Servants, their ability to understand the knowledge and the basis of internet usage and, also, the choice of an appropriate online system that is capable of giving desirable and appropriate information.Firstly, the need for appropriate knowledge of the various types of online systemand other digital environments from which information can be interactively retrieved cannot be over emphasized. Secondly, the traditional IR systems are designed to support only one type of information-seeking strategy that users engage in: query formulation. The new digital environments refine online IR systems in terms of their design and retrieval.
1.4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Three basic research instruments were used to carry out this research work on various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Abuja. These are observations, interviews and the use of a questionnaire. A population of about 500 staff members (or civil servants) from ten (10) different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government in Abuja were selected randomly to fill out a questionnaire on their usage of the Internet. This staffs were people of varied social and educational background, including both junior and senior staff of the Ministries, Departments and Agency (MDA). This data collection lasted about 2 months.
Two software applications were deployed in the design of this project; at the front end (PHP), Hypertext Protocol is the programming Language used in developing this system and the back end is the MySQL. The rare and most important characteristic of MySQL is the storage-engine architecture which keeps apart query processing, retrieval and other server task from where data is stored.
Relevant questions were asked in a Questionnaire to get appropriate answers relating to the usage of the Internet by the civil servants. These questions actually exposed the level of usage and knowledge of this facility by the Civil Servants. Typical questions in the questionnaire are:
- Do you know of any coordinated system of information retrieval within your ministry/department/agency or any other government ministry/department/agency involving a systematic usage of the computer?
- How efficient and convenient is a search using the existing system?
- Do you have access to the Internet in your office?
- How often do you use the Internet facility?
- Do you know how to browse the internet?
- Do you have a personal computer system?
These and more research questions would be answered in the course of this study. The questionnaire contains 10 questions designed to assess the efficiency of the existing system and the acceptability of the proposed information retrieval system
1.5 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This project will give an overview of the development of an online information retrieval system, review its history and background, the classification of the types, current developments in this area of information system, and the challenge it presents to developers and users alike. A study would also be carried out on the use of the online information retrieval system generally by federal civil servants. The study will attempt to understand their knowledge of online information retrieval system, the type of information they seek, and the interactivity and efficiency of these online systems.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study reviews the nature and impact of an effective interactive information retrieval in relation to federal civil servants in Nigeria. This study will be valuable to Information Science Analysts, Researchers, Office of the Head of Service, and various Professionals in the federal civil service. The study will be useful as credible reference material for public and private workers alike.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
In the course of this project, attention will be paid to internet connectivity, web search usage and the constraint to information retrieval in web search engine environments among the Federal Civil Servants in Abuja. To achieve this, a research instrument (Questionnaire) will be designed and distributed to staff of various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) of government in Abuja.
1.8 BENEFITS OF THE ONLINE RETRIEVAL SYSTEM
Online information retrieval system is a major improvement of the old system of cabinet and paper documentation, and manual retrieval system. There are numerous advantages and benefits of online information retrieval systems. These include:
- Constant availability – information can be accessed anytime and anywhere given that there is internet availability. This is of great advantage.
- Creates more space and less clutter as users will no more have to hold large paper file archives
- Reduces misfiling or loss of documents
- Improves control of access to files and documents
- Reduces the business risks of just keeping one copy of files
- Easier compliance with Freedom Of Information Act
- Easier compliance with industry legislation
- Keeps track of who does/see what and when
- Shares information between remote offices and workers
- Integrates information held in documents with other databases
- Captures large volumes of information from documents
- Creates online archives of documents
- Archives paper, emails, faxes, MS Office documents in a single system
- Reduced cost
The major limitation in this project is that despite the large population of civil servants in various government Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) across the country the research is limited to only the Office of the Head of Services and the Federal Civil Service Commission which are located in Abuja. The relative small sample size of 500 respondents from only two MDAs compared to the hundreds of thousands of Civil servants from several MDAs across the country could affect the accuracy of the research findings.
1.10 OUTLINE OF CHAPTERS
This report consists of five chapters:
Chapter one introduces the research work. Chapter two is purely devoted to the overview of the online information retrieval systems. Chapter three focuses on the system analysis and design of an online information retrieval system and general requirement for online systems. Chapter four deals with implementation and testing of the online information retrieval system. Finally, Chapter five gives the summary of major findings and conclusion of the study as well as recommendations.[email protected]
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