MSN Search Eye Tracking Study

A post over on Search Engine Land comments on a recent eye tracking study of MSN Search conducted by Edward Cutrell of Microsoft and Zhiwei Guan of University of Washington. The survey sample was very small (18 people) but draws some interesting conclusions.

On a post survey questionnaire the participants highly agreed to the statement, “I expect the information I'm looking for to be in the top five results." ( page 8 ) This isn't surprising to anyone working in an academic library. However, it does support the challenge we have in helping our students understand the difference in how a search engine executes a search and presents results compared to a library research database. If this report had a larger sample size and showed the same result, it would definitely support the current discussion and practice of Googlizing research databases.

Cutrell and Guan also conclude that "users trust the search engine more for informational search or invest less scrutiny in judging the results with higher rankings." ( page 8 ) I know that students do not critically evaluate content. I have observed students selecting one of the first five results on numerous occasions. I am still not sure how to convince students to break this bad habit. Once again, this is nothing new but it does support observations and current discussions on the need for students to develop better critical thinking and evaluation skills.

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