Understanding the effects of control and transparency in searching as learning

Cecilia di Sciascio, Jordan Barria Pineda, Eduardo Enrique Veas, Colleen Culley

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


In this paper, we analyze the benefits of adopting user interfaces that offer control and transparency for searching in contexts of learning activities. Concretely, we conducted a user study with pharmacy students performing a problem-solving task in the course of a university lecture. The task involved finding scientific papers containing relevant information to solve a clinical case. Students were split into two independent groups and assigned one search tool to perform the task. The baseline group worked with PubMed, a popular search engine in the life sciences domain, whereas the second half of the class was assigned an exploratory search system (ESS) designed for control and transparency. In the analysis, we cover the objective and subjective dimensions of the task outcomes. Firstly, the objective analysis addresses the inherent difficulty of the search task in a learning scenario and identifies certain improvements in performance for those students using the ESS, most notably when searching for primary-source content. The subjective analysis investigates the human factors side, providing evidence that the ESS effectively increases the perception of control and transparency and is able to produce a better user experience. Lastly, we report on perceived learning as a subjective dimension measured separately from user experience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 25th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces
PublisherAssociation of Computing Machinery
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Exploratory search
  • Searching as Learning

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