Austin R. Ward |



My name is Austin Ward and I am currently a PhD student at the School of Information and Library Science at UNC Chapel Hill. Prior to starting my PhD I received my Masters in Library and Information Science from Louisiana State University and Bachelors of Science in Computer Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

My research interests include human-computer interaction (HCI), interactive information retrieval (IIR), and usability across web, virtual reality, and augmented reality technologies. I have developed search assistance tools for the web and a variety of simple search applications for the Oculus Quest VR HMD, HTC Vive, and Microsoft HoloLens, several which have been used in user studies.

I am supervised by Prof. Rob Capra.

Publications & Presentations


Ward, A. R. & Capra, R. (Accepted). Immersive Search: Using Virtual Reality to Examine How a Third Dimension Impacts the Searching Process. In Proceedings of the 43rd International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (SIGIR ’20), July 25–30, 2020.

Ward, A. R. (2020, March). Immersive Search: Interactive Information Retrieval in Three-Dimensional Space. In Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (pp. 503-506).


Choi, B., Ward, A., Li, Y., Arguello, J., & Capra, R. (2019). The Effects of Task Complexity on the Use of Different Types of Information in a Search Assistance Tool. ACM Transactions on Information Systems (TOIS), 38(1), 1-28.


Jin, T., Ward, A., & Yi, K. The Key to Fostering Transdisciplinary Research Collaboration: Finding the Connections. CAIS 2018 (the 46th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, May 30 - June 1, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada).


Executive Functions and Search / Information Scaffolding and Search     [OrgBox Homepage]

Dates: July 2019 - Present
Role: Programming, data analysis (Executive Functions) / Programming, moderator, data analysis, writer (Information Scaffolding)
Environment: Ubuntu 16+, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, CSS, MySQL
• Two separate user studies that use variations on the same OrgBox search assistance tool
• Designed and developed OrgBox search assistance tool to allow users to externalize and structure information

Immersive Search: Interactive Information Retrieval in Virtual Reality  [YouTube System Demo]

Dates: September 2019 - March 2020
Role: Study design, programming, moderator, data analysis, writer
Environment: Oculus Quest VR HMD, Visual Studio, Unity, C#, Ubuntu 16+, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, MySQL
• Designed mixed-methods user study to explore impacts of different spatial arrangement of information retrieval in VR
• Developed entire system in Unity to run on Oculus Quest VR headset to report interaction measures to DB
• Moderated and ran study with 39 participants in on-campus lab, including post-session interviews
• Currently running convergent analysis on data collected from user interactions and qualitative responses

Information Types in Search Assistance Tools

Dates: July 2018 – April 2019
Role: Programming, moderator, data analysis, writer
Environment: Ubuntu 16+, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, CSS, MySQL
• Designed and developed InfoBox search assistance tool provide users different types of info related to their search
• Moderated and ran 13 of 40 participants in on-campus lab, including simulated recall interviews
• Assisted with data analysis of interaction data, questionnaire data, and interview data