Untangling cost, effort, and load in information seeking and retrieval

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

10 Citations (Scopus)
120 Downloads (Pure)


When performing Information Seeking and Retrieval (ISR) activities, people submit queries, examine results, assess documents and engage with the information to make decisions and complete tasks. All these activities come at a “cost”, but within the field of ISR there is no universally accepted definition of the concepts of Cost, Effort, and Load (CEL). Instead, researchers have used the same terms interchangeably to describe similar but also different concepts. This lack of shared understanding has led to a disconnect between how these concepts are defined and discussed versus how they are interpreted and measured. Thus, the aim of this paper is two-fold: (i) to review the meaning of CEL related concepts used within ISR, and (ii) to create a shared taxonomy of the concepts relating to CEL in ISR. To seed our analysis, we conducted a literature review, where 397 papers were reviewed, and twenty-six papers that explicitly proposed measures or definitions of CEL were selected for analysis. By drawing upon theory from Psychology and other fields, we present the common definitions of CEL in order to ground our discussion of these concepts in ISR. We also highlight the issues associated with CEL measurement in ISR to help researchers reflect on the validity and precision of existing methods. We hope this perspectives paper serves as a basis for a taxonomy of how CEL concepts are used within ISR- where we have provided a series of working definitions that clearly delineate the different concepts being used, investigated and measured in ISR research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHIIR 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval
Place of PublicationNew York, NY.
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781450380553
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2021

Publication series

NameCHIIR 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval


  • cost
  • effort
  • load
  • workload
  • infromation retrieval
  • information seeking & retrieval (ISR)
  • search
  • interactive information retrieval


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