This study investigated how domain knowledge, about diabetes, influences the process and outcome of answering complex questions using the internet. The internet has become an important source of knowledge for people seeking health information about diseases. People with chronic diseases often need a great deal of information for self management and have emerging needs for new information. Participants in our exploratory study were 8 people with diabetes and 2 without. An initial interview identified individuals with high versus low knowledge about diabetes. We then traced the activity of individuals as they used the internet to answer questions about diabetes. Questions were designed to be difficult, require reasoning, and lack a single, integrated source with a packaged answer. Here we report on case analyses of one individual with high and one with low domain knowledge. Domain knowledge influenced activity in multiple respects, including initial orienting to the task and supplying facts needed in inference chains.
Gugerty, L.; Billman, D. O.; Pirolli, P. L.; Elliott, A. An exploratory study of the effect of domain knowledge on Internet search behavior: The case of diabetes. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society; 2007 October 1-5; Baltimore MD.