Lisa Baron

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This research examines the classification of link types within hypertext databases. It is proposed that labelled links act as cues, enabling understanding of the structure and leading to more informed navigational choices. Although there is anecdotal evidence that indicating link types to readers is useful in hypertext systems, there is no experimental data to support this position. The goal of the proposed research is to provide a basis for the development of labels identifying link types, by focusing primarily on the hypertext readers' use of links. It addresses whether labelling the different types of links changes the effectiveness of searching a hypertext database by providing or enhancing a structure for readers of nonlinear texts.;An experiment was run to determine which of the following 3 conditions serve users with better cues and lead to increases performance in both browsing and querying scenarios: (1) Providing only organizational links; (2) Adding unlabelled semantic, rhetorical, and pragmatic links in addition to the organizational links; and (3) Adding labelled semantic, rhetorical, and pragmatic links to the organizational links. The experiment used a between subject design. Thirty-six students from the University of Western Ontario, Graduate School of Library and Information Science volunteered for the experiment. All subjects had a minimum of one semester of cataloguing. The hypertext document was the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) Cataloguing Utility manual and the hypertext platform was SuperBook.;The results showed that there was no significant difference between the three conditions in the browsing task, however, subjects who had labelled content-based links performed significantly better on the query task. The case study analysis of a subset of the experimental subject population showed that in the query task, labelled links led to the correct answer more often than unlabelled links. It was also shown that while link usage was small, subjects who had labelled links used more rhetorical and pragmatic links. Subjects who performed well on the browsing and querying tasks exhibited similar navigational behaviours.



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