Undergraduate research support with optical character recognition apps

Jim Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to report results of a formative usability study that investigated first-year student use of an optical character recognition (OCR) mobile application (app) designed to help students find resources for course assignments. The app uses textual content from the assignment sheet to suggest relevant library resources of which students may not be aware. Design/methodology/approach - Formative evaluation data are collected to inform the production level version of the mobile application and to understand student use models and requirements for OCR software in mobile applications. Findings - Mobile OCR apps are helpful for undergraduate students searching known titles of books, general subject areas or searching for help guide content developed by the library. The results section details how student feedback shaped the next iteration of the app for integration as a Minrva module. Research limitations/implications - This usability paper is not a large-scale quantitative study, but seeks to provide deep qualitative research data for the specific mobile interface studied, the Text-shot prototype. Practical implications - The OCR application is designed to help students learn about availability of library resources based on scanning (e.g. taking a picture, or "Text-shot") of an assignment sheet, a course syllabus or other course-related handouts. Originality/value - This study contributes a new area of application development for libraries, with research methods that are useful for other mobile development studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-350
Number of pages15
JournalReference Services Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 3 2014


  • Augmented reality
  • Mobile apps
  • Optical character recognition
  • Reference services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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