Multitasking information seeking and searching processes

Spink A., Ozmutlu H. C., Ozmutlu S.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, vol.53, no.8, pp.639-652, 2002 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier


Recent studies show that humans engage in multitasking behaviors as they seek and search information retrieval (IR) systems for information on more than one topic at the same time. For example, a Web search session by a single user may consist of searching on single topics or multitasking. Findings are presented from four separate studies of the prevalence of multitasking information seeking and searching by Web, IR system, and library users. Incidence of multitasking identified in the four different studies included: (1) users of the Excite Web search engine who completed a survey form, (2) Excite Web search engine users filtered from an Excite transaction log from 20 December 1999, (3) mediated on-line databases searches, and (4) academic library users. Findings include: (1) multitasking information seeking and searching is a common human behavior, (2) users may conduct information seeking and searching on related or unrelated topics, (3) Web or IR multitasking search sessions are longer than single topic sessions, (4) mean number of topics per Web search ranged of 1 to more than 10 topics with a mean of 2.11 topic changes per search session, and (4) many Web search topic changes were from hobbies to shopping and vice versa. A more complex model of human seeking and searching levels that incorporates multitasking information behaviors is presented, and a theoretical framework for human information coordinating behavior (HICB) is proposed. Multitasking information seeking and searching is developing as major research area that draws together IR and information seeking studies toward a focus on IR within the context of human information behavior. Implications for models of information seeking and searching, IR/Web systems design, and further research are discussed.