Stopping rule use during information search in design problems

Glenn J. Browne, Mitzi G. Pitts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Information search is critical in most decision-making tasks. An important aspect of information search is the stopping rule used by the decision maker to terminate information acquisition. Decision-making problems may be usefully decomposed into design problems and choice problems. The distinction is critical because the goals of stopping behavior in the two types of problems are quite different. In design problems, the focus is on the sufficiency of information obtained for problem structuring and generating alternatives, while choice problems focus on convergence toward a solution. While previous research has studied stopping behavior in choice problems, the present research is concerned with stopping rule use during information search in design problems. To build theory in this area, we conducted two experiments. In the first, we presented professional systems analysts with an information search problem in a systems development context and asked them to gather information for a proposed system. Protocols of the search sessions were analyzed, and stopping rules used and information gathered by the analysts were identified. Results indicated that the use of certain stopping rules resulted in greater quantity and quality of information gathered. Additionally, stopping rule use, rather than analyst experience, accounted for the quantity and quality of information elicited. Finally, stopping rule use differed between more experienced and less experienced analysts. To apply our findings about stopping rules from the first experiment, we performed a second experiment in which we investigated stopping rule use in a consumer information search task on the world wide web. Results indicated the use of the same stopping rules as in the first experiment, although in different proportions. Implications for information search theory and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-224
Number of pages17
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Decision-making processes
  • Design problems
  • Information search
  • Requirements determination
  • Stopping rules
  • Systems development


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