A Comparison of Action Transitions in Individual and Collaborative Exploratory Web Search

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Collaboration in Web search can be characterized as implicit or explicit in terms of intent, and synchronous or asynchronous in terms of concurrency. Different collaboration style may greatly affect search actions. This paper presents a user study aiming to compare search processes in three different conditions: pair of users working on the same Web search tasks synchronously with explicit communication, pair of users working on the same Web search tasks asynchronously without explicit communication and single users work separately. Our analysis of search processes focused on the transition of user search actions logged in our exploratory Web search system called CollabSearch. The results show that the participants exhibited different patterns of search actions under different conditions. We also found that explicit communication is one of the possible sources for users to obtain ideas of queries, and the explicit communication between users also promotes their implicit communication. Finally this study provides some guidance on the range of behaviors and activities that a collaborative search system should support.