A day without a search engine: an experimental study of online and offline searches

Yan Chen, Grace YoungJoo Jeon, Yong-Mi Kim
2013 Experimental Economics  
With the advent of the Web and search engines, online searching has become a common method for obtaining information. Given this popularity, the question arises as to how much time people save by using search engines for their information needs, and the extent to which online search affects search experiences and outcomes. Using a random sample of queries from a major search engine and a sample of reference questions from the Internet Public Library (IPL), we conduct a real-effort experiment to
more » ... compare online and offline search experiences and outcomes. We find that participants are significantly more likely to find an answer on the Web, compared to offline searching. Restricting to the set of questions in which participants find answers in both treatments, a Web search takes on average 7 (9) minutes, whereas the corresponding offline search takes 22 (19) minutes for a search-engine (IPL) question. While library sources are judged to be significantly more trustworthy and authoritative than the corresponding Web sources, Web sources are judged to be significantly more relevant. Balancing all factors, the overall source quality is not significantly different between the two treatments for search-engine questions. However, for IPL questions, non-Web sources are judged to have significantly higher overall quality than the corresponding Web sources. Lastly, post-search questionnaires reveal that participants find online searching more enjoyable than offline searching.
doi:10.1007/s10683-013-9381-9 fatcat:heaiwfos5jegtmtjaoz36z52le