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Factors hindering shared files retrieval

Ofer Bergman (Department of Information Science, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel)
Tamar Israeli (Department of Information Science, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel)
Steve Whittaker (Department of Computational Media, UCSC, Santa Cruz, California, USA)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 8 January 2020

Issue publication date: 8 January 2020



Personal information management (PIM) is an activity in which people store information items in order to retrieve them later. The purpose of this paper is to test and quantify the effect of factors related to collection size, file properties and workload on file retrieval success and efficiency.


In the study, 289 participants retrieved 1,557 of their shared files in a naturalistic setting. The study used specially developed software designed to collect shared files’ names and present them as targets for the retrieval task. The dependent variables were retrieval success, retrieval time and misstep/s.


Various factors compromise shared files retrieval including: collection size (large number of files), file properties (multiple versions, size of team sharing the file, time since most recent retrieval and folder depth) and workload (daily e-mails sent and received). The authors discuss theoretical reasons for these negative effects and suggest possible ways to overcome them.


Retrieval is the main reason people manage personal information. It is essential for retrieval to be successful and efficient, as information cannot be used unless it can be re-accessed. Prior PIM research has assumed that factors related to collection size, file properties and workload affect file retrieval. However, this is the first study to systematically quantify the negative effects of these factors. As each of these factors is expected to be exacerbated in the future, this study is a necessary first step toward addressing these problems.



The authors thank the participants and research assistants for their time and efforts. This research was funded by the Israeli Science Foundation Grant No. 1074/16.


Bergman, O., Israeli, T. and Whittaker, S. (2020), "Factors hindering shared files retrieval", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 72 No. 1, pp. 130-147.



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