Characterizing the Influence of Domain Expertise on Web Search Behavior

Ryen W. White, Susan Dumais, Jaime Teevan

Proceedings of Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM) 2009 |

Published by Association for Computing Machinery, Inc.

Domain experts search differently than people with little or no domain knowledge. Previous research suggests that domain experts employ different search strategies and are more successful in finding what they are looking for than non-experts. In this paper we present a large-scale, longitudinal, log-based analysis of the effect of domain expertise on web search behavior in four different domains (medicine, finance, law, and computer science). We characterize the nature of the queries, search sessions, web sites visited, and search success for users identified as experts and non-experts within these domains. Large-scale analysis of real-world interactions allows us to understand how expertise relates to vocabulary, resource use, and search task under more realistic search conditions than has been possible in previous small-scale studies. Building upon our analysis we develop a model to predict expertise based on search behavior, and describe how knowledge about domain expertise can be used to present better results and query suggestions to users and to help non-experts gain expertise.