Understanding and Supporting Human Information Seeking

  • Nicholas J. Belkin
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 182)


What would constitute “intelligent” information retrieval is a question which has had a variety of answers over the twenty or so years that the concept has been extant. This paper reviews some of the approaches to intelligent information retrieval that have been suggested. Most of these suggestions have shared the assumption that the “intelligence” resides solely in the built system. More recent work in information retrieval has begun to concentrate on the interaction between the user and the other components of the system, and this work leads to an alternative assumption: that the user is an integral part of the information retrieval system, and that intelligence in the system resides in appropriate distribution of tasks between the user and the built system. We review some of this newer work, and propose an approach to the design of information retrieval systems starting from this new assumption. The approach is based upon three principles: that information retrieval is a process in support of the user’s more general domain and task environment; that people engage in a variety of information seeking strategies, all of which should be supported by the information retrieval system; and, that information retrieval is an inherently interactive process among user, knowledge resources, and intermediary mechanisms. These principles lead to prescriptions for domain, work and task analysis, for study of information seeking strategies and their relationships to underlying tasks, and for system design to support cooperative interaction among the participants.


Information Retrieval Belief Revision Information Retrieval System Knowledge Resource Task Environment 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas J. Belkin
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Communication, Information and Library StudiesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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