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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References

This paper reports preliminary results from a study modeling the interplay between multitasking, cognitive coordination, and cognitive shifts during Web search. Study participants conducted three Web searches on personal information problems. Data collection techniques included pre- and post-search questionnaires, think-aloud protocols, Web search logs, observation, and post-search interviews. Key findings include: (1) users Web searches included multitasking, cognitive shifting and cognitive coordination processes, (2) cognitive coordination is the hinge linking multitasking and cognitive shifting that enables Web search construction, (3) cognitive shift levels determine the process of cognitive coordination, and (4) cognitive coordination is interplay of task, mechanism and strategy levels that underpin multitasking and task switching. An initial model depicts the interplay between multitasking, cognitive coordination, and cognitive shifts during Web search. Implications of the findings and further research are also discussed.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References

Studies show that people often conduct Web searches including more than one related or unrelated topic and switch between them (Spink, Park, Jansen & Pedersen, 2006). Web searchers also allocate and coordinate cognitive resources among tasks, and experience shifts in cognitive, problem and knowledge states (Du & Spink, 2008). Multitasking, cognitive shifting and cognitive coordination are important aspects of users cognitive process during Web search (Du & Spink, 2008).

However, the interplay between multitasking, cognitive shifting, and cognitive coordination is not well understood. This study explores the interplay between multitasking, cognitive shifting and cognitive coordination during Web search. This study is important for understanding and modeling the cognitive processes during Web searching. Increased understanding of Web search behavior is significant for the development of theoretical Web search models.

Related Studies

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References

Web search modeling is an important area of Web research. Spink and Cole (2005) proposed a model of multitasking and task switching during interactive information retrieval. Spink (2002) and Spink and Dee (2007) show different cognitive shifts occurring during Web search. Spink and Du (2007), and Spink, Park and Cole (2006) explored the relationship between multitasking and cognitive coordination during Web search and suggest that cognitive coordination processes are important for constructing Web search. However, limited studies have modeled the cognitive coordination process during Web search.

Overall, limited studies have modeled the interplay between the important Web searching cognitive processes of multitasking, cognitive shifts and cognitive coordination.

Research Questions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References

The major research question driving this study is: How do multitasking, cognitive shifts and cognitive coordination interplay during Web search behavior?

The minor research questions are: (1) How do users conduct their Web searches on multiple information problems? (2) What types of cognitive shifts occur during Web search? and (3) What different levels of cognitive coordination occur during Web search?

Research Design

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References

Multiple data collection instruments were used, including pre- and post- search questionnaires, think-aloud protocols, observation, Web search logs, and interviews. Two PhD students participated in the pilot study conducting Web searches on three personal information problems by each.

Multitasking data were identified through analysis of questions on the post-search questionnaire and Web search logs.

Cognitive shifts analysis of the pre- and post-search questionnaires identified study participants cognitive changes before and after Web search.

Cognitive coordination occurrences were identified by analyzing utterance-search segments in the think-aloud data and Web search logs. In the post-search interviews study participants elaborated on their actions and underlying thoughts. Content analysis and grounded theory were used to analyze the qualitative data and verbal protocol analysis for the think-aloud data.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References

1. Multitasking Behavior

Both study participants multitasked during their Web searches. The major factor affecting their information problem ordering during Web searching was personal interest. The study participants generated one and four evolving information problems respectively, and switched between three types of information problem tasks, including searching on an original information problem (SOIP), searching on an evolving information problem (SEIP), and serendipity browsing (SB) on other topics. Figure 1 shows an information problem task switching sequence.

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Figure 1. Information problem task switching sequence.

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One study participant conducted twelve information problem task switches between three SOIPs, one SEIP, and three SBs, and the other study participant conducted seven information problem task switches between three SOIPs and four SEIPs.

2. Cognitive Shifts

The study participants engaged in two types of cognitive shifts: (1) holistic shifts – cognitive changes before and after Web search over information problems. Study participants reported levels of holistic shifts: forward, backward, and no shift in terms of information problem understanding and knowledge contribution, etc. Under most situations, they experienced forward shifting. Namely, Web searching had a positive impact on their information problem solving; (2) focus shifts – cognitive changes between different cognitive states within an information problem searching. Study participants moved between the focus of cognitive states, with more focus on search strategy adoption and system output evaluation.

3. Cognitive Coordination

Three cognitive coordination levels were identified:

  • (1)
    task coordination – coordination process between information tasks, including information problem identification, evolving information problem generation, and problem task switching;
  • (2)
    coordination mechanism – underlying system to support task coordination, involving a series of cognitive processing activities most of them were content relevance feedback of making relevance judgments on the returned results, and self-learning and regulation process of making sense of the gathered information;
  • (3)
    strategy coordination – a strategic plan for solving information problems within the resources available that affected users coordination process. For example, study participant two generated a new information problem (task coordination) due to content relevance feedback (coordination mechanism) and strategy coordination of choosing another Web search engine.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References

Our study results confirm Spink, Park, and Cole (2006) and Spink and Dee (2007) who view Web search as a multitasking, cognitive shifting and cognitive coordination process. This study further identifies the processes that underpin cognitive coordination during Web search. Figure 2 shows the interplay between multitasking, cognitive shifts, and cognitive coordination during Web searching.

thumbnail image

Figure 2. Cognitive Web search model.

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Cognitive coordination is the hinge linking multitasking and cognitive shifts that allows users to construct their Web searches. The cognitive strategies and coordination process vary according to the levels of cognitive shifts. The coordination mechanisms that underpin the task coordination behavior of task switching enables multitasking Web search efficient.

Conclusion and Further Research

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References

This study highlights the nexus role of human cognitive coordination processes during Web searching. Further research is needed to model cognitive coordinating processes during Web search. Some forty users recently participated in a larger Web search study of multitasking, cognitive shifting and cognitive coordination processes, and the study findings will be reported in future papers.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Related Studies
  5. Research Questions
  6. Research Design
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion and Further Research
  10. References
  • Du, J. T. & Spink, A. (2008). Web searching model: Integrating multitasking, cognitive coordination and cognitive shifts. Proceedings of the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 45 (pp. 416418). Columbus, USA.
  • Spink, A. (2002). A user-centered approach to evaluating human interaction with Web search engines: An exploratory study. Information Processing & Management, 38(3), 401426.
  • Spink, A., & Cole, C. (2005). A multitasking framework for cognitive information retrieval. In: A.Spink & C.Cole (Eds.), New Directions in Cognitive Information Retrieval (pp. 99112). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Spink, A., & Dee, C. (2007). Cognitive shifts related to interactive information retrieval. Online Information Review, 31(6), 845860.
  • Spink, A., & Du, J. (2007). Information behavior as cognitive shifting, cognitive coordination and multitasking. RAILS 2007: Seminar of Research Applications in Information and Library Studies, November 30, Melbourne, Australia.
  • Spink, A., Park, M., & Cole, C. (2006). Multitasking and coordinating framework for human information behavior. In A.Spink & C.Cole (Eds.), New Directions in Human Information Behavior (pp. 137154). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Spink, A., Park, M., Jansen, B. J., & Pedersen, J. (2006). Multitasking during Web search sessions. Information Processing & Management, 42(1), 264275.