Medical information searching: a user study investigation

2017-02-17T01:44:58Z (GMT) by Inthiran, Anushia
The availability of medical domains publicly has made medical information searching a popular type of search conducted on the World Wide Web. However, typical medical searchers face many issues and challenges when performing a medical search. This is because medical information searching is dissimilar to non-medical based information searching. The structure, composition and properties of medical information searching make this type of search unique and complex at the same time. This research study seeks to understand how typical medical searchers (non-medical professionals, medical professionals and medical students) perform medical information searching. Specifically, this research study focuses on how varying levels of i) task difficulty and ii) topic familiarity influence medical search behaviour. In addition, demographic variables that influence search behaviour when searching across varying levels of task difficulty and topic familiarity are also analysed. Detailed aspects of a search session are analysed to examine this effect. Search sessions are broadly classified into: i) querying details, ii) search results interaction details and iii) querying versus clicking behaviour and task completion time. An interactive information retrieval experiment type methodology (IIR) is used to study interactive searching behaviour of typical medical searchers. A total of a hundred and eighty participants were part of this research study. Individual simulated situations are provided for each category of participant to invoke the information search process. Personal tasks are also employed. This research study provides several contributions. Firstly, search behaviour demonstrated by typical medical searchers when searching across varying levels of task difficulty (except for medical students) and topic familiarity are dissimilar in relation to results of previous non-medical based research studies. This indicates that there is a need to develop search behaviour profiles based on descriptions of search behaviour when searching across varying levels of medical task difficulty and topic familiarity. Without this search behaviour profiles inappropriate information retrieval strategies will be provided to the user. Secondly, typical medical searchers demonstrate some similarities in search behaviour when searching on a similar level of task difficulty. This indicates that there is a need to first identify the searcher before providing the searcher with relevant information retrieval strategies. Thirdly, basic type demographic variables influence the search behaviour of medical professionals and medical students when searching across varying levels of topic familiarity. Basic and specific type demographic variables influence the search behaviour of non-medical professionals when searching across varying levels of task difficulty. More medical type demographic variables than basic type demographic variables influence the search behaviour of medical professionals when searching across varying levels of task difficulty. This indicates demographic influence on search behaviour is more significant when searching across varying levels of task difficulty than topic familiarity. Overall, this research study provides an understanding of medical information searching behaviour.