Jill Austin

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This research used an experimental approach to investigate the relationship between cost consciousness, heuristic approach and recall in online searching. It also investigated some of the characteristics of the searcher that would be expected to influence heuristic approach, including familiarity with the search topic, familiarity with the database and anxiety. A 2 x 2 factorial design was used, where the factors were experience (expert/novice) and presence or absence of a cost consciousness treatment. Forty subjects in all searched the same two search questions. A verbal protocol technique was used, whereby subjects verbalized their thoughts while conducting their searches. The verbalizations were audiotaped, transcribed, and integrated with a transaction log to give a complete log of the terminal session.;Results indicate that the treatment was effective in eliciting feelings of cost consciousness and that searchers modified their behaviour in response to the treatment. The results further suggest that, under the conditions of this study, cost consciousness did not reduce either heuristic approach or recall attained. However, there is evidence that a greater heuristic approach resulted in higher recall. Two other findings of significance are that search performance was strongly influenced by the nature of the search question and that an experimental approach that used written information requests had a strong negative impact on search performance.;The results suggest that heuristicity may be an important factor in search success. It appears that heuristic approach was influenced by the nature of the search question, but not by the experience level of the searcher. Cost consciousness did not have the effect hypothesized, that is, suppression of interactivity and information gathering behaviour. This result should be verified by conducting a similar experiment using more costly databases. There is evidence from this study that the low heuristic behaviour reported by other researchers may have been, in part, a result of the experimental designs used, which frequently employed a written search statement and denied the searcher interaction with the requestor. Finally, measurement of heuristicity proved problematic in this study, and it is recommended that further work be conducted to develop a good tool to measure this important phenomenon.



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