A Probability Ranking Principle for Collaborative Search

  • Thilo Böhm
  • Claus-Peter Klas
  • Matthias Hemmje
Part of the Computer Supported Cooperative Work book series (CSCW)


In various work domains, the collaborative performance of a work task by a team can lead to a shared information need required to fulfill this task. Many empirical studies identified collaborative information seeking and retrieval as everyday work patterns in order to solve a shared information need and to benefit from the diverse expertise and experience of the team members. In everyday work practices, collaboration is realized by utilizing a broad range of software tools that build a heterogeneous collaboration environment. In such environments, collaboration is performed in a loosely coupled manner and using tools designed for individual usage. In this chapter, we present a general probabilistic framework for ranking documents in such collaborative settings that accounts for differences in skills and expertise within the team and ranks documents accordingly. Our approach is justified by decision theory. We present a proof of optimality of our ranking principle and show that it can serve as a justification for previous research approaches in the area of collaborative search.


Collaborative search Probabilistic ranking Activity coordination Group work coordination 


  1. Amabile TM, Patterson C, Mueller J, Wojcik T, Odomirok PW, Marsh M, Kramer SJ (2001) Academic-practitioner collaboration in management research: a case of cross-profession collaboration. Acad Manag J 44(2):418–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baeza-Yates R, Pino JA (1997) A first step to formally evaluate collaborative work. In: Proceedings of the international ACM SIGGROUP conference on supporting group work: the integration challenge. ACM, New York, pp 56–60Google Scholar
  3. Bates MJ (1979a) Idea tactics. J Am Soc Inf Sci 30(5):280–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bates MJ (1979b) Information search tactics. J Am Soc Inf Sci 30(4):205–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Böhm T, Klas CP, Hemmje M (2013) Supporting collaborative information seeking and searching in distributed environments. In: Proceedings of LWA 2013 conference. Bamberg, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  6. Böhm T, Klas CP, Hemmje M (2014a) Collaborative information seeking in professional work-settings: a study of equipment utilization. Datenbank-Spektrum 14(1):29–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Böhm T, Klas CP, Hemmje M (2014b) ezDL: collaborative information seeking and retrieval in a heterogeneous environment. Computer 47(3):32–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bruce H, Fidel R, Pejtersen A, Dumais S, Grudin J, Poltrock S (2003) A comparison of the collaborative information retrieval behaviour of two design teams. New Rev Inf Behav Res 4(1):139–153Google Scholar
  9. Byström K, Hansen P (2005) Conceptual framework for tasks in information studies. J Am Soc Inf Sci Technol 56(10):1050–1061CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crawford K, Hasan H, Warne L, Linger H (2009) From traditional knowledge management in hierarchical organizations to a network centric paradigm for a changing world. Emerg Complexity and Organ 11(1): 1–18. See:
  11. Crestani F, Lalmas M, Van Rijsbergen CJ, Campbell I (1998) “Is this document relevant? …probably”: a survey of probabilistic models in information retrieval. ACM Comput Surv (CSUR) 30(4):528–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cummings JN (2004) Work groups, structural diversity, and knowledge sharing in a global organization. Manag Sci 50(3):352–364MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davenport TH, Prusak L (1998) Working knowledge: how organizations manage what they know. Harvard Business Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  14. Dourish P, Bellotti V (1992) Awareness and coordination in shared workspaces. In: Proceedings of the 1992 ACM conference on computer-supported cooperative work. ACM, New York, pp 107–114Google Scholar
  15. Ehrlich K, Cash D (1994) Turning information into knowledge: information finding as a collaborative activity. In: Proceedings of digital libraries’ 94, Newark, pp 119–125Google Scholar
  16. Fidel R, Bruce H, Pejtersen A, Dumais S, Grudin J, Poltrock S (2000) Collaborative information retrieval. New Rev Inf Behav Res 1(1):235–247Google Scholar
  17. Foley C, Smeaton AF (2009) Synchronous collaborative information retrieval: techniques and evaluation. In: Advances in information retrieval. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 42–53Google Scholar
  18. Fuchs L, Pankoke-Babatz U, Prinz W (1995) Supporting cooperative awareness with local event mechanisms: the groupdesk system. In: Proceedings of the fourth European conference on computer-supported cooperative work ECSCW95. Springer, Netherlands, pp 247–262Google Scholar
  19. Fuhr N (1992) Probabilistic models in information retrieval. Comput J 35(3):243–255MATHMathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fuhr N (2008) A probability ranking principle for interactive information retrieval. Inf Retr 11(3):251–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Golovchinsky G, Pickens J, Back M (2009) A taxonomy of collaboration in online information seeking. Arxiv preprint arXiv:0908.0704Google Scholar
  22. Gordon MD, Lenk P (1991) A utility theoretic examination of the probability ranking principle in information retrieval. JASIS 42(10):703–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gordon MD, Lenk P (1992) When is the probability ranking principle suboptimal? JASIS 43(1):1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Haake JM, Hussein T, Joop B, Lukosch S, Veiel D, Ziegler J (2009) Context modeling for adaptive collaboration. Universität Duisburg Essen, Technical report 2Google Scholar
  25. Hansen P (2011) Task-based information seeking and retrieval in the patent domain. Processes and relationships. Academic Dissertation, University of TampereGoogle Scholar
  26. Hansen P, Järvelin K (2005) Collaborative information retrieval in an information-intensive domain. Inf Process Manag 41(5):1101–1119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hemmje M, Stein A, Boecker HD (1996) A multidimensional categorization of information activities for differential design and evaluation of information systems. Arbeitspapiere der GMD:. GMD-Studien. Sankt Augustin: GMD – Forschungszentrum InformationstechnikGoogle Scholar
  28. Hertzum M, Pejtersen AM (2000) The information-seeking practices of engineers: searching for documents as well as for people. Inf Process Manag 36(5):761–778CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hyldegård J (2006) Between individual and group-exploring group members’ information behavior in context. Ph.D. thesis, Det Informationsvidenskabelige AkademiDanish School of Library and Information Science, LedelsenLedelsenGoogle Scholar
  30. Järvelin K, Wilson T (2003) On conceptual models for information seeking and retrieval research. Inf Res 9(1):163Google Scholar
  31. Joho H, Hannah D, Jose JM (2008) Comparing collaborative and independent search in a recall-oriented task. In: Proceedings of the second international symposium on information interaction in context. ACM, New York, pp 89–96Google Scholar
  32. Joho H, Azzopardi LA, Vanderbauwhede W (2010) A survey of patent users: an analysis of tasks, behavior, search functionality and system requirements. In: Proceedings of the third symposium on information interaction in context. ACM, New York, pp 13–24Google Scholar
  33. Karunakaran A, Spence PR, Reddy MC (2010) Towards a model of collaborative information behavior. In: 2nd international workshop on collaborative information seeking-ACM conference on computer supported cooperative work. ACM. Savannah, Georgia, USAGoogle Scholar
  34. Kelly R, Payne SJ (2014) Collaborative web search in context: a study of tool use in everyday tasks. In: Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on computer supported cooperative work & social computing. ACM, New York, pp 807–819Google Scholar
  35. Klas CP, Kriewel S, Hemmje M (2008) An experimental system for adaptive services in information retrieval. In: Proceedings of the 2nd international workshop on adaptive information retrieval (AIR 2008). Citeseer. London, UKGoogle Scholar
  36. Kuhlthau CC (1991) Inside the search process: information seeking from the user’s perspective. JASIS 42(5):361–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Landwich P, Klas CP, Hemmje M (2009) Catching the user-logging the information retrieval dialogue. In: SIGIR 2009 workshop: understanding the user, BostonGoogle Scholar
  38. McGrath JE, Arrow H, Gruenfeld DH, Hollingshead AB, O’Connor KM (1993) Groups, tasks, and technology the effects of experience and change. Small Group Res 24(3):406–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Melin G, Persson O (1996) Studying research collaboration using co-authorships. Scientometrics 36(3):363–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mitrelis A, Tsakonas G, Papatheodorou C (2008) Using qualitative research methods for the improvement of collaborative information searching tools design. In Proceedings of 2008 Conference Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA 08).
  41. Morris MR (2007) Interfaces for collaborative exploratory web search: motivations and directions for multi-user design. In: Proceedings of ACM SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems 2007 workshop on exploratory search and HCI: designing and evaluating interfaces to support exploratory search interaction, San Jose, pp 9–12Google Scholar
  42. Morris MR (2008) A survey of collaborative web search practices. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems. ACM, New York, pp 1657–1660Google Scholar
  43. Morris MR (2013) Collaborative search revisited. In: Proceedings of the 2013 conference on computer supported cooperative work. ACM, New York, pp 1181–1192Google Scholar
  44. Morris MR, Horvitz E (2007) Searchtogether: an interface for collaborative web search. In: Proceedings of the 20th annual ACM symposium on user interface software and technology. ACM, New York, pp 3–12Google Scholar
  45. Morris MR, Lombardo J, Wigdor D (2010) Wesearch: supporting collaborative search and sensemaking on a tabletop display. In: Proceedings of the 2010 ACM conference on computer supported cooperative work. ACM, New York, pp 401–410Google Scholar
  46. Nonaka I, Takeuchi H (1995) The knowledge-creating company: how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. North DW (1968) A tutorial introduction to decision theory. IEEE Trans Syst Sci Cybern 4(3):200–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. O’Day VL, Jeffries R (1993) Information artisans: patterns of result sharing by information searchers. In: Proceedings of the conference on organizational computing systems. ACM, New York, pp 98–107Google Scholar
  49. Patel D, Kalter SD (1993) Low overhead, loosely coupled communication channels in collaboration. In: Proceedings of the third European conference on computer-supported cooperative work (ECSCW93), 13–17 Sept 1993, Milan. Springer, pp 203–218Google Scholar
  50. Pickens J, Golovchinsky G, Shah C, Qvarfordt P, Back M (2008) Algorithmic mediation for collaborative exploratory search. In: Proceedings of the 31st annual international ACM SIGIR conference on research and development in information retrieval. ACM, New York, pp 315–322Google Scholar
  51. Poltrock S, Grudin J, Dumais S, Fidel R, Bruce H, Pejtersen AM (2003) Information seeking and sharing in design teams. In: Proceedings of the 2003 international ACM SIGGROUP conference on supporting group work, Sanibel Island, pp 239–247Google Scholar
  52. Prekop P (2002) A qualitative study of collaborative information seeking. J Doc 58(5):533–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Reddy MC, Jansen BJ (2008) A model for understanding collaborative information behavior in context: a study of two healthcare teams. Inf Process Manag 44(1):256–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Reddy MC, Spence P (2008) Collaborative information seeking: a field study of a multidisciplinary patient care team. Inf Process Manag 44(1):242–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Robertson SE (1977) The probability ranking principle in ir. J Doc 33(4):294–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rohde M, Shaffer DW (2003) Us, ourselves, and we: thoughts about social (self-) categorization. ACM SIGGROUP Bull 24(3):19–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Salton G, McGill MJ (1983) Introduction to modern information retrieval. McGraw-Hill, Inc. New York, ©1986 ISBN:0070544840 See
  58. Saracevic T (2007) Relevance: a review of the literature and a framework for thinking on the notion in information science. Part III: behavior and effects of relevance. J Am Soc Inf Sci Technol 58(13):2126–2144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shah C, González-Ibáñez RI (2011) Evaluating the synergic effect of collaboration in information 855 seeking.In: Proceedings of the 34th international ACM SIGIR conference on research and development in information retrieval. ACM. pp 913–922Google Scholar
  60. Shah C, Marchionini G (2010) Awareness in collaborative information seeking. J Am Soc Inf Sci Technol 61(10):1970–1986CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Shah C, Pickens J, Golovchinsky G (2010) Role-based results redistribution for collaborative information retrieval. Inf Process Manag 46(6):773–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Smeaton AF, Lee H, Foley C, Givney SM, Gurrin C (2006) Físchlár-DiamondTouch: collaborative video searching on a table. In Proceedings of SPIE electronic imaging-multimedia content analysis, management, and retrieval (6073), SPIE Publications, San Jose, pp 8–9Google Scholar
  63. Sonnenwald DH, Maglaughlin KL, Whitton MC (2004) Designing to support situation awareness across distances: an example from a scientific collaboratory. Inf Process Manag 40(6):989–1011MATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Spence PR, Reddy MC, Hall R (2005) A survey of collaborative information seeking practices of academic researchers. In: Proceedings of the 2005 international ACM SIGGROUP conference on supporting group work. ACM, New York, pp 85–88Google Scholar
  65. Talja S (2002) Information sharing in academic communities: types and levels of collaboration in information seeking and use. New Rev Inf Behav Res 3(1):143–159Google Scholar
  66. Talja S, Hansen P (2006) Information sharing. In: New directions in human information behavior. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 113–134Google Scholar
  67. Twidale MB, Nichols DM, Paice CD (1997) Browsing is a collaborative process. Inf Process Manag 33(6):761–783CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Villa R, Gildea N, Jose JM (2008) A study of awareness in multimedia search. In: Proceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEE-CS joint conference on digital libraries. ACM, New York, pp 221–230Google Scholar
  69. Wang J, Zhu J (2009) Portfolio theory of information retrieval. In: Proceedings of the 32nd international ACM SIGIR conference on research and development in information retrieval. ACM, New York, pp 115–122Google Scholar
  70. Wenger E (2000) Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization 7(2):225–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wilson TD (1999) Models in information behaviour research. J Doc 55(3):249–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zuccon G, Azzopardi L (2010) Using the quantum probability ranking principle to rank interdependent documents. In: Advances in information retrieval. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 357–369Google Scholar
  73. Zuccon G, Azzopardi L, van Rijsbergen C (2010) Has portfolio theory got any principles? In: Proceedings of the 33rd international ACM SIGIR conference on research and development in information retrieval. ACM, New York, pp 755–756Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thilo Böhm
    • 1
  • Claus-Peter Klas
    • 2
  • Matthias Hemmje
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HagenHagenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Knowledge Technologies for the Social SciencesGESIS – Leibniz-Institut for Social SciencesCologneGermany

Personalised recommendations