Note the Highlight: Incorporating Active Reading Tools in a Search as Learning Environment

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Active reading strategies - -such as content annotations (through the use of highlighting and note-taking, for example) - -have been shown to yield improvements to a learner's knowledge and understanding of the topic being explored. This has been especially notable in long and complex learning endeavours. With web search engines nowadays used as the primary gateway for learners (or users) to find content that helps them realise their learning goals, they are often poorly equipped with the necessary tools to aid in sense-making, an important aspect of theSearch as Learning (SAL) process. Within theInformation Retrieval (IR) community, research efforts have explored ways to keep track of users' search context by providing a notepad-like interface for the collection of relevant articles, and aid them during the exploratory search process. However, these studies did not explicitly measure the effect that such tools have on knowledge and understanding during a complex, learning-oriented search task. In this paper, we address this research gap by carrying out an InteractiveIR experiment with highlighting and note-taking tools built into the search interface. We conducteda crowdsourced between-subjects study (N=115), where participants were assigned to one of four conditions: (i) control (a standard web search interface); (ii) high (highlighting enabled);(iii) note (note-taking enabled); and (iv) highnote (both highlighting and note-taking enabled). We assess participants' learning with a recall-oriented vocabulary learning task, and a cognitively more taxing essay writing task. We find that(i) active reading tools do not aid in the vocabulary learning task. However,(ii) participants in high covered 34% more subtopics, and participants in note covered 34% more facts in their essays when compared to control. Furthermore, (iii) we observed that incorporating active learning tools significantly changed the search behaviour of participants across a number of measures. This is the first work that sheds light on the effect of active reading tools on the SAL process, with important design implications for learning-oriented search systems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHIIR 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-8055-3
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventCHIIR 2021: 6th ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval - Online event due to COVID-19 , Virtual, Australia
Duration: 14 Mar 202119 Mar 2021
Conference number: 6

Publication series

NameCHIIR 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval


ConferenceCHIIR 2021
Abbreviated titleCHIIR 2021


  • active reading tools
  • highlighting
  • interactive information retrieval
  • note-taking
  • search as learning


Dive into the research topics of 'Note the Highlight: Incorporating Active Reading Tools in a Search as Learning Environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this