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Does searcher behaviour change when it gets difficult?

From Gary Price again. He fids the best stuff!

New Research Paper: “How Does Search Behavior Change as Search Becomes More Difficult?”
September 20, 2010 15:18

“This paper was written by two current Google researchers and a former intern Anne Aula, Rehan M. Khan, and Zhiwei Guan). It won Best Paper at the 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta.

Access the Complete Paper (10 pages; PDF)

From the Abstract:

Search engines make it easy to check facts online, but finding some specific kinds of information sometimes proves to be difficult. We studied the behavioral signals that suggest that a user is having trouble in a search task. First, we ran a lab study with 23 users to gain a preliminary understanding on how users’ behavior changes when they struggle finding the information they’re looking for. The observations were then tested with 179 participants who all completed an average of 22.3 tasks from a pool of 100 tasks. The large-scale study provided quantitative support for our qualitative observations from the lab study. When having difficulty in finding information, users start to formulate more diverse queries, they use advanced operators more, and they spend a longer time on the search result page as compared to the successful tasks. The results complement the existing body body of research focusing on successful search strategies.


Our experience observing hundreds of users in field and usability lab studies suggest that even highly skillful searchers sometimes struggle trying to find the information they’re looking for. When that happens, searchers often try a number of different queries, they get frustrated, and finally, they give up and decide to find the information some other way (e.g., asking a friend).

Access the Complete Paper (10 pages; PDF)

A careful reading of the conclusions shows the real opportunity for us as librarians. When searchers give up and look for other solutions, they ask other people like friends and colleagues. This shows the real importance on being on a first name basis with key users. If you’re socially connected to your users they are most likely to ask for your professional help when they need it. And indeed those connections can be represented in social networks and other personal contact situations.



Posted on: September 28, 2010, 12:01 pm Category: Uncategorized

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