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Image Searching On The Excite Web Search Engine

A growing body of research is beginning to explore the information-seeking behavior of Web users. The vast majority of these studies have concentrated on the area of textual information retrieval (IR). Little research has examined how people search for non-textual information on the Internet, and few large-scale studies has investigated visual informationseeking behavior with general-purpose Web search engines. This study examined visual information needs as expressed in users’ Web image queries. The data set examined consisted of 1,025,908 sequential queries from 211,058 users of Excite, a major Internet search service. Twenty-eight terms were used to identify queries for both still and moving images, resulting in a subset of 33,149 image queries by 9855 users. We provide data on: (1) image queries – the number of queries and the number of search terms per user, (2) image search sessions – the number of queries per user, modifications made to subsequent queries in a session, and (3) image terms – their rank/frequency distribution and the most highly used search terms. On average, there were 3.36 image queries per user containing an average of 3.74 terms per query. Image queries contained a large number of unique terms. The most frequently occurring image related terms appeared less than 10% of the time, with most terms occurring only once. We contrast this to earlier work by P.G.B. Enser, Journal of Documentation 51 (2) (1995) 126–170, who examined written queries for pictorial information in a non-digital environment. Implications for the development of models for visual information retrieval, and for the design of Web search engines are discussed.

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