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Searching for people on Web search engines

Amanda Spink (School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Bernard J. Jansen (School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Jan Pedersen (Overture Web Search Division, Palo Alto, California, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



The Web is a communication and information technology that is often used for the distribution and retrieval of personal information. Many people and organizations mount Web sites containing large amounts of information on individuals, particularly about celebrities. However, limited studies have examined how people search for information on other people, using personal names, via Web search engines. Explores the nature of personal name searching on Web search engines. The specific research questions addressed in the study are: “Do personal names form a major part of queries to Web search engines?”; “What are the characteristics of personal name Web searching?”; and “How effective is personal name Web searching?”. Random samples of queries from two Web search engines were analyzed. The findings show that: personal name searching is a common but not a major part of Web searching with few people seeking information on celebrities via Web search engines; few personal name queries include double quotations or additional identifying terms; and name searches on Alta Vista included more advanced search features relative to those on Discusses the implications of the findings for Web searching and search engines, and further research.



Spink, A., Jansen, B.J. and Pedersen, J. (2004), "Searching for people on Web search engines", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 60 No. 3, pp. 266-278.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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