PhD student Kathy Brennan participates in 2015 JCDL Doctoral Consortium

August 17, 2015

Kathy Brennan, PhD student and teaching fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science (SILS), presented her research abstract and participated in the proceedings of the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) Doctoral Consortium in Knoxville, Tenn., in late June. The consortium aims to help PhD students from all over the world develop their research plans by providing feedback and general advice in a constructive atmosphere.

Brennan presented an abstract of the preliminary approach she plans to take for her dissertation research, titled “User relevance assessment of personal finance information: What is the role of cognitive abilities?” Her overall objective is to develop an understanding of how people read and evaluate information about personal finance that takes into account their individual cognitive differences.

“There is a lot we still don’t know about how people think about information because much of the ‘thinking’ process can’t be directly observed,” she said. “My idea is to identify specific individual abilities that significantly affect users’ evaluations of personal finance information. My previous 15 years of experience in the financial services industry gives me some unique perspectives in my new career as an information scientist that I’m excited to use in research that can lead to the enhancement of user systems and interfaces.” 

Brennan said she was grateful to have received travel support and a registration fee waiver to attend the consortium, which proved to be a useful venue for sharing her preliminary ideas. She was mentored by Dr. Catherine Smith from Kent State University and Dr. George Buchanan from City University London, who both have extensive experience conducting laboratory human user studies that employ the kinds of methodological techniques Brennan is interested in using, including eye-tracking, relevance assessment, and mental workload questionnaires.

“It’s extremely valuable as a doctoral student to have extended one-on-one attention from well-versed scholars who are familiar with my research interests and can provide useful guidance about many of the decisions that are part of the doctoral dissertation research process,” she said.