Evaluating the effectiveness of and patterns of interactions with automated searching assistance

Bernard J. Jansen, Michael D. McNeese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Citations (Scopus)


We report quantitative and qualitative results of an empirical evaluation to determine whether automated assistance improves searching performance and when searchers desire system intervention in the search process. Forty participants interacted with two fully functional information retrieval systems in a counterbalanced, within-participant study. The systems were identical in all respects except that one offered automated assistance and the other did not. The study used a client-side automated assistance application, an approximately 500,000-document Text REtrieval Conference content collection, and six topics. Results indicate that automated assistance can improve searching performance. However, the improvement is less dramatic than one might expect, with an approximately 20% performance increase, as measured by the number of user-selected relevant documents. Concerning patterns of interaction, we identified 1,879 occurrences of searcher-system interactions and classified them into 9 major categories and 27 subcategories or states. Results indicate that there are predictable patterns of times when searchers desire and implement searching assistance. The most common three-state pattern is Execute Query-View Results: With Scrolling-View Assistance. Searchers appear receptive to automated assistance; there is a 71% implementation rate. There does not seem to be a correlation between the use of assistance and previous searching performance. We discuss the implications for the design of information retrieval systems and future research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1480-1503
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence

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