E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship


Date of this Version

Fall 2004

Document Type



Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship (Fall 2004) 5(2-3). Also available at http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/content/v05n02/weiner_j01.htm.


Copyright 2004, the author. Used by permission.



This study employs simulation analyses to determine the consequences of two search philosophies. The first is called the a posteriori approach and involves terms selected arbitrarily by the user without knowledge of the specific content of the documents. The second is the a priori approach and involves terms selected because the user knows that the author employed those exact terms in describing his/her findings. Further, the authors' combinations of these terms would be known. The results of simulation studies show that the a posteriori approach was comparable to a random walk. If the need to correctly identify documents was given high priority, would the a posteriori approach be discarded and replaced by the a priori approach? The feasibility of the latter can be seen by the elimination of thousands of hours of effort by users involved in performing flawed searches and independent replication of extractions of the same documents. However, are we far enough into the 21st Century and the Information Age to consider such a change?