The Choice of Initial Web Search Strategies:
A Comparison Between Finnish and American Searchers

Mirja Iivonen
Department of Information Studies, U. of Oulu, POB 1000, Fin-90014 Oulu, Finland

Marilyn Domas White
College of Information Studies, Hornbake Library, South Wing 4117F, U. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742


            This paper uses a mix of qualitative and quantitative methodology to analyse differences between Finnish and American web searchers (n=27 per country) in their choice of initial search strategies (direct address, subject directory, and search engines) and their reasoning underlying these choices, with data gathered via a questionnaire.  The paper looks at these differences for four types of questions with two variables:  closed/open and predictable/unpredictable source of answer (n = 16 questions per searcher; total n= 864 questions).  The paper found significant differences between the two groups' initial search strategies and for three of the four types of questions.  The reasoning varied across countries and questions as well, with Finns mentioning fewer reasons although both groups mentioned in aggregate a total of 1,284 reasons in 24 reason categories.  The reasoning indicated that both country groups considered not only question-related reasons but also source- and search-strategy-related reasons in make their decisions.  The research raises questions about considering cultural differences in designing web search access mechanisms.

Bibliographic citation:  Iivonen, M., & White, M.D.  (2001).  The choice of initial web search strategies: A comparison between Finnish and American searchers.  Journal of Documentation, 57, 465-491.