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Two of our Research Software Engineers (RSEs) are named on a recently published paper aiming to motivate users to reflect on their search behaviour, and to experiment with different search functionalities.

Ann Gledson and Aitor Apaolaza from Research IT worked with Markel Vigo from the School of Computer Science (University of Manchester) and Angela Fessi, Viktoria Pammer-Schindler (Know-Center, Graz, Austria) to carry out the research which investigated how a self-reflection widget implemented by the Know- Center affected users’ search behaviour.

To do this, a search platform was modified to log user interactions, and the self-reflection widget was shown on the page to mirror back search behaviours to users, prompting them to reflect about it.

The researchers carried two studies in parallel with different groups of users, who carried out a total of 10 tasks. In one study, the widget was shown to the user from the start, and was available throughout the entire study. In the second one, users were shown the widget only for the last five tasks.

Ann and Aitor contributed their expertise to the design of the study by advising on the research methods to use to gather feedback from the users.  They also helped to carry out the study, communicating with the participants, and guiding them throughout the duration of the study. The interaction data was captured, handled and analysed by Ann and Aitor along with researchers at the Know-Center. In particular, Ann and Aitor applied their skills to transforming the log data into engagement metrics and patterns of use, so the interaction between the two groups could be compared.

The study encouraged users to self-reflect on their search behaviour and discovered that presenting information that encouraged them to self-reflect had an effect on their search behaviour.  It made them prioritise particular advance search behaviours beyond the traditional search box, such as the use of filters. However, this effect was only present if the information was part of the platform from the start, before users became familiar with the search platform.

This research was undertaken as part of the MOVING EU Project.

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