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Search, Interrupted: Understanding and Predicting Search Task Continuation

Eugene Agichtein, Ryen White, Susan T. Dumais, and Paul N. Bennett


Many important search tasks require multiple search sessions to complete. Tasks such as travel planning, large purchases, or job searches can span hours, days, or even weeks. Inevitably, life interferes, requiring the searcher either to recover the "state" of the search manually (most common), or plan for interruption in advance (unlikely). The goal of this work is to better understand, characterize, and automatically detect search tasks that will be continued in the near future. To this end, we analyze a query log from the Bing Web search engine to identify the types of intents, topics, and search behavior patterns associated with long-running tasks that are likely to be continued. Using our insights, we develop an effective prediction algorithm that significantly outperforms both the previous state-of-the-art method, and even the ability of human judges, to predict future task continuation. Potential applications of our techniques would allow a search engine to preemptively "save state" for a searcher (e.g., by caching search re-sults), perform more targeted personalization, and otherwise better support the searcher experience for interrupted search tasks.


Publication typeInproceedings
Published inProceedings of the 35th Annual ACM SIGIR Conference (SIGIR 2012)
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