Health and Technology

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 45–55 | Cite as

Conceptualising health information seeking behaviours and exploratory search: result of a qualitative study

  • Patrick Cheong-Iao Pang
  • Karin Verspoor
  • Shanton Chang
  • Jon Pearce
Original Paper


The Internet has become an important source of health information for many people, including non-medical experts. While much health information is provided through the Internet, such information is often spread across multiple websites and providers. With the decentralised nature of the Internet, people are often unable to access health information at a single point, and thus extra efforts are needed for seeking information with search engines. The information seeking process is a crucial step for obtaining the needed health information. According to prior research, seekers apply an exploratory approach in the information seeking process of health-related topics. Although information seeking behaviours have been studied extensively in past research, few details specifically about information seeking in the health context can be found. This paper reports on a qualitative study that investigates the information needs and behaviours of health information seekers. Based on the results of the study, we present a model conceptualising health information seeking behaviours as well as the characteristics of the exploratory search approach observed in the health information seeking process.


Search approach Exploratory search Consumer health information Information seeking behaviour 



Patrick Pang is supported by the Australian Federal and Victoria State Governments and the Australian Research Council through the ICT Centre of Excellence program, National ICT Australia (NICTA).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© IUPESM and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Cheong-Iao Pang
    • 1
  • Karin Verspoor
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shanton Chang
    • 1
  • Jon Pearce
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Computing and Information SystemsThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Health and Biomedical Informatics CentreThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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