What makes re-finding information difficult? A study of email re-finding

M. Baillie D. Elsweiler, I. Ruthven

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

34 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


Re-nding information that has been seen or accessed before is a task which can be relatively straight-forward, but often it can be extremely challenging, time-consuming and frustrating. Little is known, however, about what makes one re-finding task harder or easier than another. We performed a user study to learn about the contextual factors that influence users' perception of task diculty in the context of re-finding email messages. 21 participants were issued re-nding tasks to perform on their own personal collections. The participants' responses
to questions about the tasks combined with demographic data and collection statistics for the experimental population provide a rich basis to
investigate the variables that can influence the perception of diculty. A logistic regression model was developed to examine the relationships be-
tween variables and determine whether any factors were associated with
perceived task diculty. The model reveals strong relationships between
diculty and the time lapsed since a message was read, remembering
when the sought-after email was sent, remembering other recipients of
the email, the experience of the user and the user's ling strategy. We
discuss what these findings mean for the design of re-nding interfaces
and future re-finding research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication33rd European Conference on Information Retrieval (ECIR 2011)
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • re-finding information
  • email
  • information retrieval


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