Transitions in search tactics during the Web-based search process

Iris Xie, Soohyung Joo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Although many studies have identified search tactics, few studies have explored tactic transitions. This study investigated the transitions of search tactics during the Web-based search process. Bringing their own 60 search tasks, 31 participants, representing the general public with different demographic characteristics, participated in the study. Data collected from search logs and verbal protocols were analyzed by applying both qualitative and quantitative methods. The findings of this study show that participants exhibited some unique Web search tactics. They overwhelmingly employed accessing and evaluating tactics; they used fewer tactics related to modifying search statements, monitoring the search process, organizing search results, and learning system features. The contributing factors behind applying most and least frequently employed search tactics are in relation to users' efforts, trust in information retrieval (IR) systems, preference, experience, and knowledge as well as limitation of the system design. A matrix of search-tactic transitions was created to show the probabilities of transitions from one tactic to another. By applying fifth-order Markov chain, the results also presented the most common search strategies representing patterns of tactic transition occurring at the beginning, middle, and ending phases within one search session. The results of this study generated detailed and useful guidance for IR system design to support the most frequently applied tactics and transitions, to reduce unnecessary transitions, and support transitions at different phases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2188-2205
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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