Exploratory Search

Exploratory Search

Beyond the Query-Response Paradigm

Ryen White, Resa Roth
ISBN: 9781598297836 | PDF ISBN: 9781598297843
Copyright © 2009 | 98 Pages | Publication Date: 01/01/2009

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As information becomes more ubiquitous and the demands that searchers have on search systems grow, there is a need to support search behaviors beyond simple lookup. Information seeking is the process or activity of attempting to obtain information in both human and technological contexts. Exploratory search describes an information-seeking problem context that is open-ended, persistent, and multifaceted, and information-seeking processes that are opportunistic, iterative, and multitactical. Exploratory searchers aim to solve complex problems and develop enhanced mental capacities. Exploratory search systems support this through symbiotic human-machine relationships that provide guidance in exploring unfamiliar information landscapes.

Exploratory search has gained prominence in recent years. There is an increased interest from the information retrieval, information science, and human-computer interaction communities in moving beyond the traditional turn-taking interaction model supported by major Web search engines, and toward support for human intelligence amplification and information use. In this lecture, we introduce exploratory search, relate it to relevant extant research, outline the features of exploratory search systems, discuss the evaluation of these systems, and suggest some future directions for supporting exploratory search. Exploratory search is a new frontier in the search domain and is becoming increasingly important in shaping our future world.

Table of Contents

Defining Exploratory Search
Related Work
Features of Exploratory Search Systems
Evaluation of Exploratory Search Systems
Future Directions and concluding Remarks

About the Author(s)

Ryen White, Microsoft Research
Ryen William White has been a researcher in the Text Mining, Search, and Navigation Group at Microsoft Research, Redmond since May 2006. He was a faculty research associate in the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park from 2004 to 2006, working on research projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and United States Department of Defense. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom in October 2004. His doctoral dissertation entitled "Implicit Feedback for Interactive Information Retrieval" focused on the development and testing of novel methods to help people search electronic environments such as the World Wide Web. In recognition of his dissertation research, he received the British Computer Society's "Distinguished Dissertation" award for the best Computer Science Ph.D. dissertation in the United Kingdom in 2004-2005. Ryen's research interests include exploratory search, implicit relevance feedback, query expansion, log analysis, and the evaluation of search systems with humans and simulations. He has coauthored over 80 conference and journal publications in these areas. He was a recipient of best paper award at the 2003 INTERACT Conference, the best student paper award at the 2004 European Conference on Information Retrieval, and the best paper award at the 2007 ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval. He has cochaired numerous workshops on exploratory search in conjunction with ACM SIGIR and ACM SIGCHI conferences, as well as workshops sponsored by the NSF, and some that were independently funded. He guest coedited the April 2006 special section of Communications of the ACM on supporting exploratory search, a special issue of Information Processing and Management on evaluating exploratory search systems in March 2008, and a theme issue of IEEE Computer on information-seeking support systems in March 2009.

Resa Roth
Resa Ariel Roth is an Honors College graduate of Washington State University, United States, where she earned her B.S. degree in 2006. She is an experienced technical writer with a desire to expand the human mind through the use of progressive search technology.


White and Roth's book is a concise introduction to the emerging area of exploratory search--activities that include browsing and focused search. Essentially, it deals with the common situation of a user learning more about a topic area during the searching process. The challenge for developers and academics is that traditional information retrieval approaches often assume that the main requirement of such systems is to provide the best possible answer to the initial question. Exploratory search acknowledges that, by the end of the search process, the user may actually want to answer a different question.

The is very easy to read, and it works very well as an introduction to the area, with over 250 references. One of the problems with any book in this area is that the example systems are overtaken very quickly by new versions; that being said, the underlying principles are still valid. Similarly, evaluation methods for systems that support exploratory search are not universally agreed upon, so some pointers are given for adapting existing methods. Undoubtedly, this area lies in the boundary between information retrieval, usability testing, and cognitive science, and there are many opportunities for its research and development.

This book is a recommended starting point for developers, academics, and advanced undergraduates who are interested in this area.
David Parry - ACM Computing Reviews

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