May 15, 2022

Research Paper: Impact of Gender and Age on Performing Search Tasks Online


Impact of Gender and Age on Performing Search Tasks Online


Georg Singer
Institute of Computer Science, University of Tartu, Estonia

Ulrich Norbisrath
Institute of Computer Science, University of Tartu, Estonia

Dirk Lewandowski
Department Information, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany


Paper to Be Presented at Mensch and Computer 2012
September 2012
via arXiv


Web search engines have become the dominant tools for finding information on the Internet. Due to their popularity, users apply them to a wide range of search needs, from simple look-ups to rather complex information tasks. This paper presents the results of a study to investigate the characteristics of these complex information needs in the context of Web search engines. The aim of the study is to find out more about (1) what makes complex search tasks distinct from simple tasks and if it is possible to find simple measures for describing their complexity, (2) if search success for a task can be predicted by means of unique measures, and (3) if successful searchers show a different behavior than unsuccessful ones. The study includes 60 people who carried out a set of 12 search tasks with current commercial search engines. Their behavior was logged with the Search-Logger tool. The results confirm that complex tasks show significantly different characteristics than simple tasks. Yet it seems to be difficult to distinguish successful from unsuccessful search behaviors. Good searchers can be differentiated from bad searchers by means of measurable parameters. The implications of these findings for search engine vendors are discussed.

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Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.