Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2014

Publication Title

Reference and User Services Quarterly

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Last Page



Consumer Health, health information, text reference services


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Information Literacy


This study seeks to provide empirical evidence about how health-related questions are answered in text reference service in order to further the understanding of how to best use texting as a reference service venue to fulfill people’s health information needs. Two hundred health reference transactions from My Info Quest, the first nation-wide collaborative text reference service, were analyzed identify the types of questions, length of transactions, question-answering behavior, and information sources used in the transactions. Findings indicate that texting-based health reference transactions are usually brief, and cover a wide variety of topics. The most popular questions are those seeking general factual information about human body, medical/health conditions, diseases, or medical concepts/jargons. Great variance is discovered among the question-answering behavior, with only a little more than half of the answers containing citation to information sources. The study will inform the practice of health reference service via texting, and help libraries make evidence-based decisions on establishing service policies and procedures, providing training for librarians, and ultimately implementing the service successfully.