This paper analyzes e-mail reference questions posed to archivists in order to enhance our understanding of how users of archives seek information. This study analyzed 375 e-mail reference questions submitted to provincial, federal, university, city and special archives in order to determine, from the users' own words, how users formulate reference requests to archives. Understanding what elements the archives' client uses to describe his or her information need enables the creation of more relevant archival descriptive tools. According to this analysis, people used proper names, dates, places, subject, form, and, occasionally, events when composing their information request. As archives move toward a greater presence on the World Wide Web, archivists should design electronic information systems that account for the information seeking patterns expressed in e-mail refrence requests.

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