A picture of search structures Knowledge Representation and Re-Use for Exploratory and Collaborative Search


Modern search systems work well when looking for specific information, but do little to support exploratory searches that extend across multiple search sessions and have investigation and learning as primary goals. Current search systems provide few ways for users to capture, re-use, and resume their search efforts, little support for discovering structural information about a topic, and few methods for coordination and knowledge sharing among searchers. As a result, users often begin searches isolated from knowledge about the domain and effective search processes that others have already discovered, and groups working collaboratively on a search must invest considerable manual effort to communicate and coordinate their efforts using channels outside the search system. This research will develop and evaluate novel techniques and interfaces to allow users to capture, save, share, and re-use structured information about search tasks, search processes, and domain information. A central innovation in this research will be the integration of template structures (including lists, hierarchies, two-dimensional grids, and concept maps) into the user interface and underlying search system in order help users save and organize the information they discover. This structured information will then be used by the system to help support the future searches of individuals and groups of users working collaboratively.

This research will answer questions about how search systems can incorporate methods to capture, share, and re-use knowledge developed during searches to help improve the future search activities of individuals, collaborating groups, and other searchers working on similar tasks. This research will significantly improve the tools and methods for exploratory and collaborative search, and will provide empirical results to guide future search user interfaces and system development. The outcomes of this project will have substantial transformative impact in helping users to discover new information and topic structures, make sense of the information they find, and build from the prior search efforts of others. Results and software developed as part of the project will be disseminated through papers published in top-tier conferences and journals, and will be made available on the project website (http://ils.unc.edu/searchstructures/).

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1552587.
Any opitions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.