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Developing a detailed view of query reformulation: One step in an incremental approach

Catherine Smith and Nina Wacholder

(Submission #268)


A key goal of current research on interactive information seeking is to develop personalized search systems that respond to individual user needs in real time. Ideally, such systems will provide customized recommendations that help the user generate more effective queries. This paper reports on an experiment designed to test the hypothesis that visually scanning search results interferes with the user’s ability to recognize potentially useful query terms. Our experiment uses the well-documented phenomenon of semantic priming – people recognize lexically related words more quickly than they recognize words that are not related. By careful manipulation of the relationships between words, and the context in which words are recognized, we are able to identify factors that may affect query reformulation in general, and user response to query suggestions in particular. Our results show that in a visual scanning task, word recognition is not advantaged by semantic priming. This finding lends support to our hypothesis. The primary contributions of this research include: 1) demonstration of the value of the semantic priming paradigm in the study of query formulation and search interaction; 2) development of a new task specifically designed to tease apart the impact of visual and linguistic processing during query reformulation; 3) bringing a novel technique to information retrieval research for the study of interaction, as part of a general movement to apply techniques from cognitive science in the study of cognitive factors that affect search interaction.


Program Track:  Track 3 - Information Systems, Interactivity and Design
Submission Type:  Research Paper


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