Catherine L. Smith


Search Interaction Lab
Dr. Catherine L. Smith, PI (

"We study how people use information systems like search engines and online libraries. Our research helps make search systems easier to use.
Studies in the Search Interaction Lab are ongoing. Active and past studies are listed below. Many studies provide a small payment for your time. A list of past closed studies is below."
You can click HERE to add your email address to our list so we can contact you about upcoming studies.

The lab focuses at two levels of granularity:

- The study of search behavior focuses on what people do when using a search system, as indicated by in situ log data and in factorial experiments.
- The study of query forumlation focuses on how the system affects a searcher’s selection of words when expressing an information need (a query).
We also study methdological questions on remote data collection, specifically related to research participation.

Search expertise

    Major research questions:
  • What is taught in formal training on search expertise?
  • How does the search behavior of experts differ from that of novices?
    • When search is easy/hard
    • On structured/unstructured systems
    • In the use of vocabulary resources
  • What parts of search expertise are transferable across systems?
  • What are the behavioral features of domain-independent search expertise?
  • How can we design a system that helps people learn what to do when search is hard?

Query formulation

    Major research questions:
  • How can we induce formulation of textual queries without using words? (methodological question)
  • How can we describe the processes people use when selecting words for queries?
  • How do search experts use vocabulary resources?
  • How do search experts select words for queries?
  • How does the interface affect the usefulness of vocabulary resources?
    • For experts
    • For non-experts

Remote methods

Major research questions:

- What are the factors that affect a potential research volunteer’s decision to participate in a study that requires installation and use of logging software?
- What can we do to increase participation and reduce attrition?

Upcoming and open studies

UPCOMING: Online Data Privacy Survey - fall 2014

Close prior studies

CLOSED: Online Data Privacy Survey Pilot - spring 2014

CLOSED: Search System Study - spring 2013. The Search System Study is currently closed. We plan to reopen the study later in 2015.
Please leave your email address (use the link above) if you are intersted in participating in the future.

CLOSED: Search Education Study - spring 2012. The first session of this study ran in the spring of 2012.
Library and information science students will be invited to participate again in the future.
Check back to learn more.

CLOSED: SES Methods Study - summer 2011
This study is complete.