Professor Elaine Toms
Professor of Information Science, Director of Research
B.A., B.Ed. (Memorial University of Newfoundland), MLS (Dalhousie University), PhD (University of Western Ontario)
|Telephone (UK):||0114 222 22659|
|Telephone (International):||+44 114 222 2659|
Elaine Toms commenced her current appointment at Sheffield in 2011 after holding a post at Dalhousie University, Canada as Canada Research Chair in Management Informatics, and prior to that as an Associate Professor, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, Canada.
My teaching stretches across the human-technology interface to consider how technology meets peoples’ needs and what we need to design for human use particularly when it comes to information. I strongly believe in teaching the principles and foundations rather than how to “push buttons.” With rampant developments in technology, learning software applications is dated before graduation; foundations and principles have staying power. I have discovered over the years that teaching and research have a symbiotic relationship: research informs what we teach, and teaching influences the research path; this is the fundamental approach that I take in my teaching.
I can be found in Information Retrieval, a core course for many PGT programs, Human Computer Interaction, and Multimedia Digital Libraries. I make guest appearances in Research Methods in UG and PGT modules to discuss research ethics.
Understanding why information systems fail users and designing systems for optimum human use is the focus of my research. This involves understanding how people work and use information and how people use existing systems to accomplish their work. It also includes evaluating novel tools that facilitate access to and use of information. As a result my research lies at the intersection of human computer interaction, information retrieval and the representation and presentation of information.
Examples of past work include:
- understanding how people browse in digital newspapers
- the use of metaphors in textual menus
- integration of user and work context into search engines for more precise search results
- understanding the effect of interruptions and multitasking on knowledge work
- re-inventing a webcasting interface
- understanding collaborative search and information use
- measuring engaging user experience, the notion of relevance, and perceived reputation of websites
- re-designing the search interface.
Current research includes:
- improving search systems to support real-life work tasks (rather than bags of words)
- new approaches to evaluating search systems
- understanding serendipity and how systems can deliver on serendipity
- the relationship between human curiosity and browsing.
My work has been funded by NSERC, SSHRC, OCLC, Heritage Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Canada Research Chairs Program. I was an investigator with three Canadian national research networks: a) TAPoR, the Text Analysis Portal for Research; b) NECTAR, the Network for Effective Collaboration Through Advanced Research; and c) National Centres of Excellence project, GRAND, which involves graphics, animation and new media.