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Web Searching: A Process Orientated Experimental Study of Three Interactive Search Paradigms

By Simon Dennis, Peter D. Bruza and Robert McArthur


This article compares search effectiveness when using query-based Internet search (via the Google search engine), directory-based search (via Yahoo), and phrase-based query reformulation-assisted search (via the Hyperindex browser) by means of a controlled, user-based experimental study. The focus was to evaluate aspects of the search process. Cognitive load was measured using a secondary digit-monitoring task to quantify the effort of the user in various search states; independent relevance judgements were employed to gauge the quality of the documents accessed during the search process and time was monitored as a function of search state. Results indicated directory-based search does not offer increased relevance over the query-based search (with or without query formulation assistance), and also takes longer. Query reformulation does significantly improve the relevance of the documents through which the user must trawl, particularly when the formulation of query terms is more difficult. However, the improvement in document relevance comes at the cost of increased search time, although this difference is quite small when the search is self-terminated. In addition, the advantage of the query reformulation seems to occur as a consequence of providing more discriminating terms rather than by increasing the length of queries

Topics: user studies, online searching, search time, query formulation, end user searching, query refinement, search engines, World Wide Web, browsing
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Year: 2002
DOI identifier: 10.1002/asi.10015
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