Drawing on the ideas of the Sense-Making approach, the ways in which people face and bridge gaps in Web searching are analyzed. The empirical study is based on videotaped Web searches conducted by seven participants. Altogether 11 gaps and 13 search tactics of various types were identified. The gaps faced by the searchers originated from three major factors: problematic content of information, insufficient search competence and problems caused by the search environment. Of individual gaps, no relevant material available, inaccessible content and confusion were most frequent. Of the search tactics used in gap-bridging, following links and activating the Back button were most popular. Gaps related to the problematic content of information led the informants to redirect the search to find Web pages that focus better on the search topic. If the movement was stopped by insufficient search competence, the searchers tended to return to material that was familiar from earlier use contexts in order to regain control of the search process. Alternatively, they tried to specify the search terms. In cases where the search was interrupted by technical problems or other factors originating from the search system, gap-bridging aimed at returning to familiar and technically reliable links. The Sense-Making theory provides relevant conceptual tools to approach the dynamic and discontinuous nature of Web searching in terms of gap-facing and gap-bridging. The concept of gap-facing enables a context-sensitive analysis of the ways in which Web search processes may be stopped. Gap-bridging indicates a general level motive to find alternative ways to continue searching. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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