This paper presents the word association methodology as means to improve user interaction and access to information retrieval (IR) systems. The result of the three research projects are described in which the method has been used to catch the intuitive, colloquial vocabulary of end-users. The evaluation of the research projects have been concentrated on the users’ perception and assessment of the associative semantic networks, and there exist no conclusive data about the value of user associations as means to improve the interactive search behaviour. A new framework for the evaluation and testing of associative relations is developed. The evaluation method is based on the concept of simulated work task situations.