Is it the new Google: Impact of ChatGPT on Students' Information Search Habits


  • Thashmee Karunaratne Stockholm University
  • Adenike Adesina Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University, Kista, Sweden



The traditional subject of information search and retrieval (IR) paradigm shifted to an entirely new era since artificial intelligence (AI) techniques were introduced into the field. Browser-based IR solutions powered by AI for personalised recommendations-based information retrieval, such as the Google search engine, were one of the early examples. The IR field has advanced to its next level with the newest conversational applications based on large language model (LLM) techniques. It is becoming clear that Generative Pretrained Transformer (GPT) applications such as ChatGPT will significantly impact information retrieval behaviour in the education sector. Though this application has become widespread in acclaim, no previous study has shown its impact on information seeking and retrieval. However, based on the observation of the fast penetration of this technology and the growth of public interest, a pre-assumption was built that it is essential to investigate if students may also be showing a similar interest in this new tool. Hence, this study is set up to systematically and empirically explore how ChatGPT influences the IR behaviour of students in HEIs. A survey approach is utilised to collect the perceived IR behaviour through a questionnaire administered to 60 students in HEIs. The findings reveal that the tool is already widely known among HEI students. They also perceived the use of the tool in the context of information retrieval and proclaimed its usefulness, acknowledging its efficiency (reduced time) in finding information. Furthermore, the technology has considerably affected the typical use of other conventional information retrieval and search engine tools. On the contrary, 10% of the respondents are less likely to use ChatGPT during information seeking for various reasons, from credibility and relevance to technology infrastructure issues such as connectivity. Although a deeper analysis is required to establish a general conclusion on how and in which ways GPT-based models will override contemporary IR practices, the study outcome provides evidence for a possible behavioural change among HEI students in their IR habits in the future.