How query cost affects search behavior

Leif Azzopardi, Diane Kelly, Kathy Brennan

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

47 Citations (Scopus)


How query cost affects search behaviour affects how users interact with a search system. Microeconomic theory is used to generate the cost-interaction hypothesis that states as the cost of querying increases, users will pose fewer queries and examine more documents per query. A between-subjects laboratory study with 36 undergraduate subjects was conducted, where subjects were randomly assigned to use one of three search interfaces that varied according to the amount of physical cost required to query: Structured (high cost), Standard (medium cost) and Query Suggestion (low cost). Results show that subjects who used the Structured interface submitted significantly fewer queries, spent more time on search results pages, examined significantly more documents per query, and went to greater depths in the search results list. Results also showed that these subjects spent longer generating their initial queries, saved more relevant documents and rated their queries as more successful. These findings have implications for the usefulness of microeconomic theory as a way to model and explain search interaction, as well as for the design of query facilities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 36th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval
Place of PublicationNew York, NY, USA
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • interactive information retrieval
  • search behavior
  • query interfaces
  • query cost
  • production theory

Cite this