Synchronized tag clouds for exploring semi-structured clinical trial data

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hernandez, M.-E., Falconer, S., Storey, M.-A., Carini S, & Sim I. CASCON, Toronto, Canada.

Searching and comparing information from semi-structured repositories is an important, but cognitively complex activity for internet users. The typical web interface displays a list of results as a textual list which is limited in helping the user compare or gain an overview of the results from a series of iterative queries. In this paper, we propose a new interactive, lightweight technique that uses multiple synchronized tag clouds to support iterative visual analysis and filtering of query results. Although tag clouds are frequently available in web interfaces, they are typically used for providing an overview of key terms in a set of results, but thus far have not been used for presenting semi-structured information to support iterative queries. We evaluated our proposed design in a user study that presents typical search and comparison scenarios to users trying to understand heterogeneous clinical trials from a leading repository of scientific information. The study gave us valuable insights regarding the challenges that semi-structured data collections pose, and indicated that our design may ease cognitively demanding browsing activities of semi-structured information.