Search engines fast becoming source of learning

Washington, Nov 20 ( Search engines are not only part of our daily routine, they are fast becoming part of our learning process, says a new study.

The researchers, who sought to discover the underlying cognitive processes, examined the search habits of 72 participants, spread over 426 such tasks.

They found that search engines are primarily used for fact checking users’ own internal knowledge, meaning that they are part of the learning process rather than simply a source for information.

“Our results suggest the view of web searchers having simple information needs may be incorrect,” said Jim Jansen, associate professor of information sciences and technology at the Penn State University (PSU).

“Instead, we discovered that users applied simple searching expressions to support their higher-level information needs,” added Jansen.

Jansen said the results of this study provide useful information about how search engine use has evolved over the past decade and clues about how to design better search engines to address users’ learning needs in the future.

He and Brian Smith, his counterpart at the PSU and Danielle Booth, former PSU student conducted the research, said a PSU release.

“If we can incorporate cognitive, affective and situational aspects of a person, there is the potential to really move search performance forward,” Jansen said.

These findings were published in the November issue of Information Processing and Management.