A pinboard by
Judith Borghouts

PhD Candidate, University College London


My research looks at how users look up information from various sources as part of data entry work.

Think back to the last time you came back from a conference. You probably saved all your receipts from the trip, and had to enter them into a computer-based accounting system to claim back your expenses. You probably started out by entering the items and prices into the system. Maybe you needed to open a website to convert prices from one currency to another. After entering the receipts, you might then have needed to enter your bank details. This might require a further forage for this information from an online banking system. After this, entering the correct budget code might require further searching through old emails to find the correct information. Throughout this scenario, how many times have you interrupted the data entry task to go and look up relevant information? Alternatively, you might have gathered all the required information beforehand, to not have to interrupt the data entry task. Maybe, you entered information you knew first, and left the items you had to spend time looking up until the end? Whatever way you chose to complete this task, it involved making decisions as to when to gather relevant information to enter it into the computing system.

People often have to go in and out of applications, documents and even physical locations during routine data entry work, which can be disruptive and increases likelihood of errors. It is challenging for users to organise and manage their information in a structured way.

My research is concerned with how people in finance offices collect and organise information as part of their data entry work. I have conducted two field studies interviewing employees and observing them doing their work. This showed that people carefully plan and organise their paper sources, such as receipts. Digital sources, such as Excel spreadsheets, were fetched in an unplanned and reactive manner as and when they were needed. I then conducted three experiments to see how time costs to collect information influences people's strategies. This showed that people group items that have a similar costs together, rather than finishing one data entry task. The consequence is that people collect and enter all easy-to-find items first, even if that means interleaving between tasks.

For the final part of my PhD, I plan to design a prototype to better support people in their information needs, and evaluate these with end users.