Was This Guide Helpful? by Martin P. Courtois, Martha E. Higgins and Aditya Kapur

This post contains notes from my reading of Courtois, M. P., Higgins, M. E., & Kapur, A. (2005). Was this guide helpful? Users’ perceptions of subject guides. Reference Services Review, 33(2), 188 – 196.

I am reproducing the author supplied abstract to facilitate the discussion.

    • Purpose – Most academic libraries make subject or research guides available on their web sites. Little is known, however, in terms of user satisfaction with guides. This study examines methods used to evaluate guides and reports on an online survey placed on each of more than 80 web-based guides provided by Gelman Library, George Washington University.

Design/methodology/approach – The survey, borrowing an approach used by Amazon.com and other web sites, consisted of a single question – Was this guide useful – and a comments box. Findings – Two hundred ten responses were received during Fall semester 2003. Fifty two percent of responses rated guides as Very Helpful or Somewhat Helpful, while 40 percent gave ratings of Not Helpful or a Little Helpful.



Originality/value – Although limited in scope, this simple survey revealed positive elements of the guides and identified problems that could be addressed immediately. The survey also helped to identify larger issues that will benefit from additional user input.

This article presents the findings of an online survey embedded within the 80 or so subject or research guides of the Gelman Library, George Washington University. The survey has only 1 question — “Was this guide useful?” and a comment box.

I thought this is a clever approach to get user inputs. I wonder if I can find a similar feature so that I can garner user inputs for our newly created subject rooms.


The article reported that positive inputs served to encourage guide owners. Helpful inputs such as broken links, minor errors are easily fixed. About 40% of respondents felt that the guides were not helpful. This could be a signal that some guides need more work. Another important thing is that this online survey method is very easy to administer and I like that.