How Search Data Identifies Needs Of Cancer Patients

Americans use the Internet to find health information, but not all information is considered reliable.  Researchers Michael Paul, Ryen White and Eric Horvitz believe that understanding the information required during the course of an illness is a first step to enhance search and retrieval for people in need. In a Microsoft Research project,  the three sought to study "the evolving and episodic nature of search in the context of breast cancer."

While people use the Web for cancer information, many find the quality of information poor. In total, 41.2% of respondents to the study said they found certain information or resources contradictory or confusing. Write-in comments found searchers don't like the Web because it's "too depressing, confusing, overwhelming and contradictory. I like to follow a doctor’s advice and go with it."

Understanding the search behavior for the study meant manually tagging a set of Web searchers demonstrating disruptive shifts in focus and long-term patterns of search behavior consistent with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

The data identified the geographic and demographic attributes of searchers and then analyzed the content of queries over time.

The research also suggests the method could apply to other search activity for media events with multiple episodes.



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