An analysis of theories of search and search behavior

Leif Azzopardi, Guido Zuccon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book

20 Citations (Scopus)


Theories of search and search behavior can be used to glean insights and generate hypotheses about how people interact with retrieval systems. This paper examines three such theories, the long standing Information Foraging Theory, along with the more recently proposed Search Economic Theory and the Interactive Probability Ranking Principle. Our goal is to develop a model for ad-hoc topic retrieval using each approach, all within a common framework, in order to (1) determine what predictions each approach makes about search behavior, and (2) show the relationships, equivalences and differences between the approaches. While each approach takes a different perspective on modeling searcher interactions, we show that under certain assumptions, they lead to similar hypotheses regarding search behavior. Moreover, we show that the models are complementary to each other, but operate at different levels (i.e., sessions, patches and situations). We further show how the differences between the approaches lead to new insights into the theories and new models. This contribution will not only lead to further theoretical developments, but also enables practitioners to employ one of the three equivalent models depending on the data available.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICTIR '15 Proceedings of the 2015 International Conference on The Theory of Information Retrieval
Place of PublicationNew York, NY, USA
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • information foraging theory
  • search economic theory
  • interactive probability ranking principle


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