Beyond Traditional Collaborative Search: Understanding the Effect of Awareness on Multi-Level Collaborative Information Retrieval

Nyi Nyi Htun, Martin Halvey, Lynne Baillie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Although there has been a great deal of research into Collaborative Information Retrieval (CIR) and Collaborative Information Seeking (CIS), the majority has assumed that team members have the same level of unrestricted access to underlying information. However, observations from different domains (e.g. healthcare, business, etc.) have suggested that collaboration sometimes involves people with differing levels of access to underlying information. This type of scenario has been referred to as Multi-Level Collaborative Information Retrieval (MLCIR). To the best of our knowledge, no studies have been conducted to investigate the effect of awareness, an existing CIR/CIS concept, on MLCIR. To address this gap in current knowledge, we conducted two separate user studies using a total of 5 different collaborative search interfaces and 3 information access scenarios. A number of Information Retrieval (IR), CIS and CIR evaluation metrics, as well as questionnaires were used to compare the interfaces. Design interviews were also conducted after evaluations to obtain qualitative feedback from participants. Results suggested that query properties such as time spent on query, query popularity and query effectiveness could allow users to obtain information about team’s search performance and implicitly suggest better queries without disclosing sensitive data. Besides, having access to a history of intersecting viewed, relevant and bookmarked documents could provide similar positive effect as query properties. Also, it was found that being able to easily identify different team members and their actions is important for users in MLCIR. Based on our findings, we provide important design recommendations to help develop new CIR and MLCIR interfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-87
Number of pages28
JournalInformation Processing & Management
Issue number1
Early online date30 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • awareness
  • collaborative search
  • information access
  • multi-level collaboration
  • non-uniform access


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