Students in higher education environments typically work with information discovered to gain and create knowledge required for their assessments and other course work. Much of this research happens online now as a required activity for students at all education levels and settings. When students access study material via the Internet and without the presence of an instructor, they may face difficulties in understanding the complete purpose of an assessment. Such difficulties can lead to poor information search practices resulting in poor creativity and low knowledge gain, which may in turn lead to mediocre information synthesis and low levels of knowledge creation. To investigate and possibly address this problem, the current study examines the information search practices of 10 novice and 5 experienced university students as they seek to gain and create knowledge for authentic assessment tasks. An additional 5 students received an intervention in the form of a word cloud application, which was introduced to create a visual and textual task understanding support scaffolding for the students. Results revealed evidence of knowledge gain and creation, especially by most experienced students when they used mental models to derive their searching process, and when they used notes to convert the implicit knowledge into an explicit form. The word cloud intervention additionally provided experienced students relevant learning cues from the task to improve their knowledge gain and creation, and helped improve their engagement with the online assessments tasks.