Research

Projects with United Nations (UN)

UN Armed Conflict Project

The goal of this project is to analyze the armed conflict data compiled by the UN since World War I. Two goals drive this study. In the short term, researchers hope to predict the duration of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, including those in Syria, Egypt, and Iran. In the long term, researchers hope to identify regions that are prone to war—whether it be civil or between states—and predict their involvement in future conflicts.

Students: Soumik Mandal, Kevin Albertson


UN General Assembly Resolutions and Voting Patterns

This project examines how we can make informed predictions in voting behavior for the UN General Assembly (GA). It analyzes text from thousands of UN official documents as well as GA voting records to find clusters based on topics, similar voting patterns, etc. Questions to be answered include:

What are the characteristics of GA documents?

How are documents adopted by UN Member States?

Which UN Member States have similar voting patterns?

How do UN Member States vote on particular topics?

Students: Kevin Albertson, Soumik Mandal, Jonathan Pulliza


Global Climate Land Energy Water Strategies (CLEWS)

The United Nations CLEWS model provides useful insights about the relationships between water, energy, climate, and land and material use on a global scale. It tries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through synergizing primary energy sources.

The InfoSeeking team has been exploring the existing optimization and information visualization tools for energy planning. While most of the existing models concentrate on the economic implications of alternative sources of energy and their correlation with global temperature and emission levels, very few have concentrated on the human factors involved with energy usage. This project focuses on uncovering the various microlevel and macrolevel human factors to build a robust model that could better achieve global energy goals.

Students: Souvick Ghosh, Jiqun Liu, SeoYoon Sung, Yiwei Wang

Other Ongoing Projects

Sensor-Aware Information Seeking Behavior

To what extent, if any, do behaviors observable via smart-phones relate to information behaviors? To what extent, if any, do behaviors observable via wearable devices relate to information behaviors? To what extent, if any, are personal signals and social signals different in terms of studying behaviors? These are the types of questions we are investigating in research that uniquely combines studies of fundamental human behaviors and information seeking using mobile and wearable technologies.

Through the data and sensors available on mobile phones, we can observe individual's behavior as follows: Social Interaction: Number of phone calls and/or SMS, Number of contacts for calls/SMS, etc.
Geolocational Movement: Number of cell towers that the phone has been connected with during a particular time period.

Wearable devices are more focusing on health-related signal from the users.
Physical Activities: Number of steps, Time of working out, Time of sleep, etc.

Duration: Spring 2015-ongoing; Students: Dongho Choi, Serife Uzun


A Qualitative Approach to Information Retrieval Research in Chronic Illness

A Qualitative Approach to Information Retrieval Research in Chronic Illness

People are increasingly turning to the Internet to search for health information, particularly after they have been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Although many studies have evaluated how people use the Internet to interact with information, most of the research in this area cannot be generalized to adults diagnosed with chronic diseases. We do not currently understand what information patients search for, how they go about evaluating that information, and what impact the search process has on their own care or health outcomes. This study is a mixed-methods project that takes a qualitative approach to traditional interactive information retrieval research. It has three phases: a questionnaire; an interactive search session with several steps, including a think-aloud and a micro-moment time-line interview; and a follow-up interview carried out four to six months after the interactive search session. The aim of this study is to develop an understanding of the information needs, seeking, and use behaviors of patients diagnosed with chronic health conditions. This project will have a significant impact on health-related research by providing a longitudinal understanding of the impact of online health-information seeking on self-management and decision-making in patients diagnosed with chronic illness. This will in turn improve health outcomes, as engaged patients are more likely to adhere to treatments and perform self-management activities.

Duration: ongoing; Students: Yiwei Wang under the guidance of Dr. Kaitlin Costello


information seeking successes and failures

Interactions with Healthcare Providers about Online Health Information

While many patients use the Internet for health information, the relationship between online health information seeking and communication with healthcare providers in chronic illness is not yet fully elucidated. We currently do not understand what role online health information plays in the clinical visit, the antecedent causes or health outcomes of online information seeking, or when and why online health information seeking occurs. This project takes a systematic review approach to the question of how healthcare providers and patients discuss online health information, specifically examining articles published in the domain of information behavior. Our intention with this project is to uncover gaps in the current literature in order to systematically describe the field to healthcare providers, informing their interactions with patients about online health information. This work will also uncover gaps in the literature, informing future research and intervention development.

Duration: ongoing; Students: Jeremiah King under the guidance of Dr. Kaitlin Costello


information seeking successes and failures

Successes and Failures in Information Seeking Episodes

People constantly face obstacles and failures in various types of information seeking episodes. These are often attributed to either the information seeker or the system/service being used for finding information. What is often ignored in such investigations is the context of the tasks that trigger information seeking or the strategies being used by the information seeker. A careful examination of the links between information seeking barriers and outcomes is needed. In this project, we look at where and why information seeking episodes succeed or fail, and how those successes/failures relate to the greater context of the tasks, the strategies/methods people employ, and the barriers/challenges they encounter.

Duration: ongoing; Students: Yiwei Wang


Information Seeking Intentions

As people become more accustomed to Web-based information retrieval, they are using online tools to address increasingly complex and personally significant queries. Current Web search engines, however, were developed to specifically help users find simple, typically factual information formatted as a single listed response to a basic query. These systems do not sufficiently assist the growing number of information seekers who need to engage in longer search episodes outside the one-query-one-response paradigm. Modern web search engines also do not support activities that require users to go beyond merely clicking on a search result, such as reading, evaluating, comparing, and using information. Our research addresses this problem by studying why people engage in such complex information seeking (i.e. their motivations), and what they try to accomplish during the course of an information seeking episode (i.e. their search intentions). Through this study, we would ultimately like to design and evaluate new types of search engines that help users accomplish their information seeking goals. In essence, we hope to develop personalized systems to support specific searchers, their goals, and their respective contexts. Specifically, this research will establish relationships between people's behaviors during an information seeking episode, the motivating goals that led them to engage in information seeking, and their specific intentions at any point during an information seeking task. This will enable the development of systems that can predict how to best assist individuals with their unique queries. As a practical example, this project’s findings could help build a system that automatically recognizes that a user is shopping for a car, then help that person compare cost-benefits of new vs. used cars, compare buying vs. leasing options, and ultimately make an informed decision. This research will be integrated with educational activities via the development of modules to supplement courses in iSchools, library/information science programs, etc. This is particularly important, as it will allow a broad range of students to learn about new searching methods and related user studies and evaluation.

Duration: Summer 2015-ongoing; Students: Matt Mitsui


Prediction and Recommendation in Exploratory Search

Analyzing and modeling users' online search behaviors when conducting exploratory search tasks could be instrumental in discovering search behavior patterns to then assist users in reaching their search task goals. We propose a framework for evaluating exploratory search based on implicit features and user search action sequences extracted from the transactional log data to model different aspects of exploratory search namely uncertainty, creativity, exploration, and knowledge discovery. We show the effectiveness of the proposed framework by demonstrating how it can be used to understand and evaluate the user search performance and thereby make meaningful recommendations to improve the overall search performance of users. We used data collected from a user study consisting of 18 users conducting an exploratory search task for two sessions with two different topics in the experimental analysis. With this analysis we show that we can effectively model their behavior using the implicit features to predict the future performance level of the user with above 70\% accuracy in most cases. Further, using simulations we demonstrate that our search process based recommendations improve the search performance of low performing users over time and validate such using both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Duration: Summer 2014-ongoing; Students: Chathra Hendahewa


Retrieving Rising Stars in Focused Community Question-Answering

In Community Question Answering (CQA) forums, there is typically a small fraction of users who provide high-quality posts and earn a very high reputation status from the community. These top contributors are critical to the community since they drive the development of the site and attract traffic from Internet users. Identifying these individuals could be highly valuable, but this is not an easy task. Unlike publication or social networks, most CQA sites lack information regarding peers, friends, or collaborators, which can be an important indicator signaling future success or performance. In this project, we attempt to perform this analysis by extracting different sets of features to predict future contribution.

Duration: Summer 2015-ongoing; Students: Long Le


Collaborative Information Seeking in Student Group Projects

To gain a better understanding of the collaborative information seeking behaviors of students conducting authentic group work projects, an exploratory study was conducted with college students working on a for-credit group project using a collaborative search system. Quantitative and qualitative data was gathered on the everyday search practices of students over the course of an authentic group project assignment, along with quality scores for sources based on a rating rubric. Results showed that student activities during collaborative information seeking relate to the quality of their search outcomes, as the effective and efficient searchers found better quality sources. Students’ pre-task attitudes and experiences toward group work also relate to the quality of their search outcomes. These findings may be useful to researchers designing and studying the effectives of collaborative search tools, and to instructors planning to incorporate group projects into their classes.

Duration: Fall 2014-ongoing; Students: Chris Leeder


Retrieving People: Identifying Potential Answerers in Community Question-Answering

Community Question-Answering (CQA) sites have become popular venues where people can ask questions, seek information or share knowledge with the community. While responses on CQA sites are obviously slower than information retrieval by a search engine, one of the most frustrating aspects for an asker is if the question posted does not receive a reasonable answer or remains unanswered. CQA sites could improve the user's experience by identifying potential answerers and routing appropriate questions to them. Finding potential answerers increases the chance that the question is answered or answered more quickly. In this project, we predict the potential answerers based on question content and user profiles. Our approach builds user profiles based on past activity. When a new question is posted, the proposed method computes scores between the question with all user profiles to find the potential answerers.

Duration: Summer 2015-ongoing; Students: Long Le


Past Projects

Live User Study for Exploratory Search

We worked on designing and carrying out a new user study involving individual users conducting exploratory search tasks in a live setting during Summer 2014. The study instructed participants to install Coagmento toolbar and sidebar integrated into a browser add-on in their computers in order for us to capture transactional log data while the participants surfed the Web for collecting information that will help them to accomplish an exploratory search task. The participants were asked to work on the same task for 1-2 hours on two different topics based on their preference from a list of five topics (Health, Technology, Environment, Art, Entertainment). We also gave pre and post quiz questions to evaluate the prior and acquired knowledge levels of the users on the topic of preference. The study was able to recruit 18 individual participants. Each participant was compensated with Amazon gift cards upon successful completion of both sessions. The data collected was analyzed to build prediction models for search processes. The data was also used to provide search trail recommendations and query trail suggestions to improve diversity/relevance and information coverage of users.

Duration: Summer 2014-Fall 2014; Students: Chathra Hendahewa, Matt Mitsui


Individuals vs. Dyads vs. Triads for Informational Tasks

During Spring and Summer 2013, we conducted a laboratory study to investigate how people search information online. This study required a team of two/three or individuals for two sessions. For this study, we targeted to recruit approximately 60 participants and we were able to actually surpass this by recruiting a total of 70. The study used Coagmento toolbar and sidebar integrated into a browser to capture data while the participants surfed the Web for collecting information that will help them to accomplish a task. The first task was an exploratory search task to write a report with a 30 minutes time limit. The second task was a fact-finding task where the participants had to answer multiple questions requiring short answers with a 40 minutes time limit. Each participant was compensated with cash. We recruited participants with the following criteria:

  • between ages 18-24
  • team participants should have worked collaboratively on some project in the past
  • possess intermediate typing and online search skills
  • proficient in English language

  • From this study, we collected search log data, video and audio data, mouse movements and screen captures of all the sessions. In addition, we got user feedback from short interviews.

    Duration: Summer 2013-Summer 2014; Students: Chathra Hendahewa, Roberto Gonzalez-Ibanez


    Investigating Features that Contribute to Increasing Question Quality in Social Q&A

    The study will examine what features contribute to creating a quality question within the SQA platform, Yahoo! Answers. Specifically, the study will examine how textual features, such as answer length and TF/IDF frequency, contribute to determining question quality, using non-textual features derived using human assessors as a quality standard. In addition, if a question is of poor quality, we will also ask why this is, by asking assessors to rate question quality along a series of factors, such as clarity and complexity, and mapping textual features to these factors. By taking this approach, we hope to derive an automated model for question quality that can not only predict question quality, but also provide reasons why a question is of poor quality, which will yield suggestions for how to improve the question.

    Duration: Fall 2011-Spring 2013; Students: Erik Choi, Vanessa Kitzie


    User Search Process Segmentation for Understanding Underlying Search Strategies

    Analyzing different user search processes in achieving different search goals is vital in understanding the underlying strategies, which they adopt in performing such tasks. Another crucial aspect is that based on different information seeking models in the literature such as Information Search Process model, Anomalous State of Knowledge model, Behavioral Model for Information Seeking it is evident that a user search processes involve many stages from inception to finally reaching the goal. In this project, we aim to segment the user search processes which are composed of a time series of search related actions using a machine-learning based approach to analyze whether the segmentation leads to dividing the overall search process in to stages where users take different inter stage strategies in order to optimize the final search performance.

    Duration: Summer 2013-Spring 2014; Students: Chathra Hendahewa


    Investigating Motivations and Expectations of Asking a Question in Social Q&A

    Social Q&A (SQA) has rapidly grown in popularity, impacting people’s information seeking behavior. Although research has paid much attention to a variety of characteristics within SQA to investigate how people seek and share information, fundamental questions of user motivations and expectations for information seeking behaviors in SQA remain: Why do people use SQA to ask a question? What are the users’ expectations with respect to the responses to their questions? The current study applied the theoretical framework of uses and gratification to investigate the motivations for SQA use, and adapted criteria people employ to evaluate information from previous literature in order to investigate expectations with regard to evaluation of content within SQA.

    Duration: Summer 2013-Spring 2014; Students: Erik Choi


    Questioning the Question – Addressing the Answerability of Questions in Community Question-Answering

    Most research on community question-answering (cQA) services focuses on answer ranking, retrieval, and assessment with little attention given to question quality. A drawback to these studies is their assumption that the questions asked are of suitable quality to potentially receive a good answer in the first place. Yet evidence indicates this is not the case and that question type and content affect the number and quality of answers received. In this research project, Dr. Chirag Shah, Erik, and Vanessa focus on questions posted on Yahoo! Answers to investigate what factors contribute to the goodness of a question and determine if we can identify bad questions in order to allow askers to revise them before posting.

    Duration: Spring 2012-Fall 2014; Students: Erik Choi, Vanessa Kitzie


    Investigating Implications of Positive and Negative Affects in Collaborative Information Seeking

    This research focuses on the study of positive and negative affects in the information search process of both individuals and teams. Two important questions addressed in this study are: (1) Do we feel a certain way because we find (don't find) relevant information? and (2) Do we find (or don't find) relevant information because we feel a certain way?. Theories and models from social psychology suggest that both positive and negative emotions have important implications in the way we perform daily activities such as team work, learning, social interactions, and decision making, to name a few. To what extent positive and negative affects (as well as related affective processes) influence the way in which both individuals and teams search, assess, and use information?

    We designed and conducted a lab study involving 142 participants with specific experimental conditions to evaluate the effects of affective processes in the information search process of both individuals and teams. From each participant, multimodal data (including electrodermal activity, facial expressions and gestures, eyetracking data, users' actions, communication logs, and browsing logs, among others) was collected.

    Duration: Spring 2012-Fall 2014; Students: Roberto Gonzalez-Ibanez


    Support for Online Synchronous Collaborative Information Seeking

    This research aims to investigate effects of various situations and support mechanisms, defined by participants’ social and emotional interactions, for people working on online collaborative information seeking/searching tasks synchronously. We created Coagmento system and mobile apps for supporting this.

    Duration: Fall 2010-Fall 2011; Students: Roberto Gonzalez-Ibanez


    Measuring Content Quality in Online Q&A

    The primary objective of this research is to propose and evaluate a model of content quality in online Q&A environments, which include expert-based Q&A services such as IPL and Ask-a-Librarian, as well as social/community Q&A services such as Yahoo! Answers and WikiAnswers. Vanessa worked on this as a part of the OCLC/ALISE research grant award for 2011. Read more on Social Information Seeking here.

    Duration: Fall 2010-Spring 2012; Students: Vanessa Kitzie


    Investigating Failed Questions in Social Q&A

    This research focuses on identifying the statistical characteristics of both the content of the failed question and information of asker who raises this question to see if this set of characteristics makes failed question statistical significantly different from well-answered question. Additionally, we worked on comparing the prediction model built upon the statistical characteristics to a recent qualitative analysis which has been focusing on constructing human’s criteria for evaluating question’s likelihood for failure in order to study how different is a machine prediction model from human judgment.

    Duration: Fall 2010-Spring 2012; Students: Erik Choi, Vanessa Kitzie


    Query Formulation and Search Strategies

    This research aims to investigate (1) effects of query suggestions feature provided by most major search engines, as well as (2) the effects of nature of the search task – whether it is for simply collecting information, or using that collected information for a higher purpose. There were three conditions: (1) Google Instant, (2) Query Suggestions only, (3) Basic Search Interface and participants were randomly selected to use one of them for the two tasks they were required to complete. Abhijna and Kanan conducted a lab study for this during Fall 2010. They presented the findings in the undergraduate Aresty research symposium as well as at Research Day right here at SC&I. They also won an award for outstanding research in information technology after being nominated by Professor Shah.

    Duration: Fall 2010-Spring 2011; Students: Abhijna Baddi, Kanan Parikh


    Use of Facebook in Understanding Political Discourse

    It is not uncommon to use social media/networking services such as Facebook to understand people's opinions and sentiments on a social-political issue. We collected and analyzed data from Facebook for several topics of socio-political importance.

    Duration: Fall 2010-Spring 2011; Students: Charlie File, Tayebeh Yazdani nina


    Identifying Roles of Participants in Collaborative Projects

    In collaborative projects, often roles (e.g., leader and follower) emerge as the participants work through it. We looked at the relation of such roles to outcomes of the collaboration.

    Duration: Fall 2010-Spring 2011; Students: Daulat Lakhani