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Information Task Switching and Multitasking Web Search (SIGs CR and HFIS)

Amanda Spink Minsoo Park Bernard J. Jansen

Presented at ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), Providence, Rhode Island, November 13 - 18, 2004


A userís single session with a Web search engine may consist of seeking information on single or multiple topics. Some Web search sessions consist of three queries of one word or more. We present findings from a study of three or more-query search sessions on the Alta Vista Web search engines. We examine the degree of multitasking search and information task switching by these Web searchers. A sample of three or more query sessions were filtered from Alta Vista transaction logs from 2002 and qualitatively analyzed. Findings include: (1) 91.3% of three or more query sessions contained multiple topics, (2) multitasking sessions contained frequent topic changes, and (3) there are a broad variety of search topics in multitasking search sessions. Multitasking is a key element within Web search. The implications of our findings for Web design and further research are discussed.

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