Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore whether and how social tagging can be useful in an information website for cancer patients and their relatives. Methodology/approach: Three studies have been carried out in order to investigate the research questions. Firstly, we reviewed and analyzed literature about cancer patients’ information needs and seeking behavior, and about social tagging and patient terminology. Secondly, we analyzed tags applied to blog postings at Blogomkraeft.dk, a blog site at the Danish information web site Cancer.dk. The tags were compared with the formal browsing structure of Cancer.dk. Results from the two studies were used to develop a prototype for social tagging at Cancer.dk. Thus thirdly, we evaluated the prototype in a usability study. Findings: We found that tags have the potential to describe and provide access to web site content from the users’ perspective and language use. Social tags may be a means to bridge between scientific viewpoints and terminology and everyday problems and vocabulary. Tags at Blogomkraeft.dk are mainly factual, often detailed, and do not cover as many functions as tags in more general bookmarking systems. An important finding is that some tags seemed to add to and supplement the content instead of factually describing the content of a blog posting. The usability test showed that our test persons liked the tagging feature. Social implications: Tagging features give the public an opportunity to apply their own terms to documents, reflecting their own model of the current topic. Tags may furthermore function as colloquial lead-in terms from users’ search formulations at search engines such as Google to the domain-specific, tailored cancer web site.
Social Information Research: Library and Information Science, 2012, p. 101-128