Information search in a professional context - exploring a collection of professional search tasks

by   Suzan Verberne, et al.

Search conducted in a work context is an everyday activity that has been around since long before the Web was invented, yet we still seem to understand little about its general characteristics. With this paper we aim to contribute to a better understanding of this large but rather multi-faceted area of `professional search'. Unlike task-based studies that aim at measuring the effectiveness of search methods, we chose to take a step back by conducting a survey among professional searchers to understand their typical search tasks. By doing so we offer complementary insights into the subject area. We asked our respondents to provide actual search tasks they have worked on, information about how these were conducted and details on how successful they eventually were. We then manually coded the collection of 56 search tasks with task characteristics and relevance criteria, and used the coded dataset for exploration purposes. Despite the relatively small scale of this study, our data provides enough evidence that professional search is indeed very different from Web search in many key respects and that this is a field that offers many avenues for future research.


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