The effects of topic complexity and familiarity on cognitive and physical moves in a thesaurus-enhanced search environment

A.A. Shiri, C.W. Revie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents an evaluation of the effects of search topic characteristics on cognitive and physical search moves within the interface of a thesaurus-enhanced information retrieval environment. Topic characteristics examined here are topic complexity, topic familiarity, search type and prior topic search experience. The data gathering techniques adopted in this investigation included pre- and post-search questionnaires, transaction logs and post-session interviews. Thirty academic staff and postgraduate researchers from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow participated in this study. Each participant conducted three searches based on their research information needs. The results show that complex topics are associated with significantly more cognitive and physical moves. However, it is perhaps equally important to note that the results indicate that variation in the other topic characteristics did not demonstrate any significant difference in the number of cognitive or physical moves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-526
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Information Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • online information retrieval
  • information seeking behaviour
  • search strategies
  • query formulation
  • topic complexity
  • thesaurus use
  • user interface
  • human computer interaction
  • end usersReferences

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