Exploring information seeking processes in collaborative search tasks



Many theories and models exist for understanding and explaining information seeking processes (ISP) for individuals. Such is not the case for collaborative information seeking (CIS), despite its growing importance. In this paper we take Kuhlthau's ISP model, designed for individual information seeking, and map it to a CIS situation. We present a laboratory study with 84 participants in 42 pairs and demonstrate how their information seeking processes over two sessions can be mapped to various stages of the ISP model. In addition, we explore the affective dimension of information seeking as well as perceived relevance expressed by the participants through their interactions. We discuss similarities and disparities of ISP for individuals and collaborative information seeking. In particular, we show that there is a logical progression from uncertainty about the task to being satisfied about the collected information among the participants; and at the same time, there is a lack of clear segmentation between stages of formulating information need, exploring information, and collecting it. The latter can be attributed to exploratory search tasks and interactions among the collaborators.