Uncharted territory: understanding exploratory search behaviours in literature reviews

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In the realm of Information Seeking and Retrieval (ISR), searching the literature for relevant references in the context of academic work, such as theses or publications, is widely recognised as an exploratory search task. This task becomes particularly challenging when searchers lack prior knowledge of the subject matter. To help address the growing need for supporting exploratory search endeavours, ISR researchers have developed exploratory search models and interfaces. However, while much attention has been given to conceptualising exploratory searches, little focus has been placed on understanding the specific approaches and behaviours that searchers employ during conducting literature reviews. This paper aims to bridge this gap by conducting semi-structured interviews with 30 Master’s students at the end of a user study. This paper provides comprehensive definitions for the fundamental exploratory characteristics from the recent conceptual model, pinpoints potential factors that could influence these characteristics, introduces new exploratory dimensions, and extends our comprehension of existing ones in the academic context. It also uncovers a spectrum of approaches used in literature searches, shedding light on how individuals rely on specific paper sections to measure their relevance and highlighting essential facets of knowledge acquisition in the context of literature searches.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Dec 2023
Event2024 ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and
- Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Mar 202414 Mar 2024


Conference2024 ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and
Abbreviated titleCHIIR'24
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • exploratory search
  • literature review
  • search process
  • information retrieval
  • information behaviour


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