Query formulation assistance for kids: What is available, when to help & what kids want

Jerry Alan Fails, Maria Soledad Pera, Oghenemaro Anuyah, Casey Kennington, Katherine Landau Wright, and William Bigirimana. 2019. “Query formulation assistance for kids: What is available, when to help & what kids want”. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC 2019).


Children use popular web search tools, which are generally designed for adult users. Because children have different developmental needs than adults, these tools may not always adequately support their search for information. Moreover, even though search tools offer support to help in query formulation, these too are aimed at adults and may hinder children rather than help them. This calls for the examination of existing technologies in this area, to better understand what remains to be done when it comes to facilitating query-formulation tasks for young users. In this paper, we investigate interaction elements of query formulation–including query suggestion algorithms–for children. The primary goals of our research efforts are to: (i) examine existing plug-ins and interfaces that explicitly aid children’s query formulation; (ii) investigate children’s interactions with suggestions offered by a general-purpose query suggestion strategy vs. a counterpart designed with children in mind; and (iii) identify, via participatory design sessions, their preferences when it comes to tools / strategies that can help children find information and guide them through the query formulation process. Our analysis shows that existing tools do not meet children’s needs and expectations; the outcomes of our work can guide researchers and developers as they implement query formulation strategies for children.