A New Digital Archive and Search Platform for Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Research
Planning and implementation of a GDOT-sponsored research project by faculty in technical communication and digital archives.
September 2018 – June 2019
Jennifer Goode, PhD
Department of Technical Communication
Nahali “Holly” Croft, MS
Dillard Russell Library
Pam Estes Brewer, PhD
Department of Technical Communication
Download/View Project Documents and Resources
Over time, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) research database had grown out-of-date, difficult to search, and impossible to integrate with other state and national library databases. GDOT personnel, from management to support staff, found it difficult to locate specific projects and create customized annotated bibliographies for research and reporting purposes. During the four phases of this project, investigators conducted an in-depth analysis of current GDOT repository practices and needs, assessed GDOT needs for search criteria and taxonomy development, and analyzed GDOT needs for annotated bibliography content. Then, they customized software and created an indexing strategy for the new digital repository, recorded the process, and piloted the loading of the repository with digital records. Before final implementation, they tested the usability of the system updates and implemented changes based on the usability needs of GDOT employees. Finally, the research team provided face-to face training on the new system as well as a user guide and video training. During this project, the research team delivered an integrated, easily-maintained, digital repository that can house digital reports and other artifacts, while also providing relevant, reliable, and usable search functions that all GDOT employees can use to effectively access the reports and then generate customized annotated bibliographies.
An existing digital archive can be customized to the needs of users in an evolving organization. In this project, investigators customized the GDOT archives in four phases as follows. This approach might be useful to other organizations seeking to update research archives.
The project’s objective was to design and create an integrated, easily-maintained, digital archive that can house digital reports and other artifacts, while also providing relevant, reliable, and usable search functions that all GDOT employees can use to effectively access the reports and then generate customized annotated bibliographies.
Over the course of the project, investigators:
- Administered a needs assessment and usability study to help determine the users’ needs and expectations for the system;
- Applied a taxonomy to standardize operations;
- Used multiple delivery methods to train current and future users on the system.
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) funds a large research and development program that develops, conducts, and implements research aligned with GDOT’s strategic agency goals. The number of research and technical reports generated from the program is increasing, and the reports need to be properly catalogued for quick searching and dissemination by GDOT management and staff. Existing search tools were segmented and did not provide a comprehensive set of relevant, user-friendly search parameters. Annotated bibliographies, used for research and reporting purposes at GDOT, were extremely hard to customize, and the most recently compiled version of all GDOT research projects was severely out of date (c. 1990). Processes and standards for entering research report data into the research database had varied over the years, creating a system that was inconsistent and impossible to integrate with other state and national library databases. As a result of these contributing factors, GDOT personnel, from management to support staff, found it difficult to locate specific projects and create customized annotated bibliographies for research and reporting purposes.
Phase 1: Needs Assessment
Phase 2: Design
- Software Selection
- Indexing Design
- Archive Loading
- Process Standardization
- Process Documentation
Phase 3: Usability Testing
- Usability Assessment
- Software, Process, and Document Modification
Phase 4: Training and Transfer of Findings
- User Guide Development
- Live (In-Person) Staff Training
- Recorded (Portable) Training
- Dissemination of Results
The project used the latest techniques and strategies from the field of information science to establish a new robust taxonomy for tagging and searching report entries. Newly updated records include fully searchable abstracts and other identifying information. The new system seamlessly integrates a record selection tool that makes the creation of customizable annotated bibliographies quick and simple. GDOT personnel have learned how to use the digital repository at the on-site training, delivered at the conclusion of the project. The resulting system is manageable, expandable, and sustainable, thus enhancing the decision-making processes for future GDOT research initiatives.
The authors acknowledge and appreciate the contributions and coding help from Jeremy Brown, Associate Dean of Library Services at Florida Gulf Coast University and former Assistant Dean for Technical Services and Systems and Associate Professor in the Jack Tarver Library at Mercer University.
For more information on this project, please contact the principal investigator, Dr. Jennifer Goode, at Goode_J@mercer.edu.
This research project was sponsored by the Georgia Department of Transportation (Grant 0015842; GDOT Research Project 18-20) and conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.
Project Publications, Presentations, and Poster Sessions
Goode, J., Croft, N., & Brewer, P.E. (forthcoming). Tales from the trenches: Making interdisciplinary teams work. Conference Proceedings, Society for Technical Communication’s 2020 Summit on Technical Communication, Bellevue, WA.
Brewer, P.E. (2019, October). Using interdisciplinary teams to teach and to win grants. Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication Annual Conference. West Chester, PA. [view handout]
Croft, N., Brown, J., & Goode, J. (2019, October). A multidisciplinary approach to revamping a library catalog. 2019 Georgia Libraries Conference, Macon, GA. [view presentation]
Goode, J. (forthcoming). Tales from the trenches: Making interdisciplinary teams work. Society for Technical Communication’s 2020 Summit on Technical Communication, Bellevue, WA.
Goode, J., Croft, N., & Brewer, P.E. (2019, September). A new digital archive and search platform for GDOT research. Poster session presented at the Georgia Department of Transportation/Georgia Transportation Institute 7th Annual Research Expo, Atlanta, GA. [view poster]