Web-Based Information Search and Retrieval: Effects of Strategy Use and Age on Search Success

Aideen J. Stronge; Wendy A. Rogers; Arthur D. Fisk
September 2006
Human Factors;Fall2006, Vol. 48 Issue 3, p434
Academic Journal
Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between strategy use and search success on the World Wide Web (i.e., the Web) for experienced Web users. An additional goal was to extend understanding of how the age of the searcher may influence strategy use. Background: Current investigations of information search and retrieval on the Web have provided an incomplete picture of Web strategy use because participants have not been given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of Web strategies while also searching for information on the Web. Methods: Using both behavioral and knowledge-engineering methods, we investigated searching behavior and system knowledge for 16 younger adults (M = 20.88 years of age) and 16 older adults (M = 67.88 years). Results: Older adults were less successful than younger adults in finding correct answers to the search tasks. Knowledge engineering revealed that the age-related effect resulted from ineffective search strategies and amount of Web experience rather than age per se. Our analysis led to the development of a decision-action diagram representing search behavior for both age groups. Conclusion: Older adults had more difficulty than younger adults when searching for information on the Web. However, this difficulty was related to the selection of inefficient search strategies, which may have been attributable to a lack of knowledge about available Web search strategies. Application: Actual or potential applications of this research include training Web users to search more effectively and suggestions to improve the design of search engines.


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