The paper aims to explore the concepts of interaction and interactivity presented in different theoretical models in the fields of human‐computer interaction (HCI) and information‐seeking/searching behaviour, and to relate these to information retrieval (IR) research. It is suggested that interaction in HCI is primarily concerned with establishing a user/system dialogue at the user interface and does not address the interactive characteristics of IR operational tasks. A distinction is made between general informationseeking models and information‐searching models for computerised systems. The former are deemed to provide a useful framework for characterising interaction at the task level, with the structural relationship between tasks as well as the dynamic transition from one task to another being key features of the interactive process. Although the latter are all concerned with how searchers interact with IR systems, each of the models examined represents user interaction at different levels of abstraction. Taken together they provide complementary views of a highly dynamic process. Three principal aspects of interaction are identified and discussed: interaction within and across tasks; the notion of interaction as task sharing; and interaction as a discourse. In conclusion the adoption of an interaction paradigm for IR research is advocated and examples of empirical work for supporting interactive searching and retrieval are provided.
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