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As you progress through INFO 200, you’ll be reading a number of theories about information seeking behavior. These readings offer different lenses with which to view and explore your information community. A crucial part of your research paper will be to not only investigate your information community, but also apply relevant information behavior theories to frame your findings.
Here is an overview of some of the key information seeking behavior theories and theorists, a summary of their theories, along with an example student paper for each that incorporate the theoretical framework and applies it to their chosen information community.
Theorist: Marcia J. Bates
Main thesis: When searching for information, users generally do not have a specific search strategy, rather, they “berrypick” as they find relevant different pieces of data.
Example: Lucy Palasek describes how users in women’s health communities primarily use internet searches to find information.
Theory: Small Worlds
Theorist: Elreda A. Chatman
Main thesis: In researching information seeking behavior, it is important to study and understand the information needs and behaviors of users in “small world” underserved populations.
Example: Lisa Molson uses Chatman’s “small worlds” theory to examine how the digital divide impacts women with depression.
Theory: Everyday Life Information Seeking (ELIS)
Theorist: Reijo Savolainen
Main thesis:Information needs to be examined and analyzed within the context of non-work, “everyday life” information seeking activities, such as recreation and leisure.
Example: Catherine Pyun notes how the ELIS theory is the foundational theory that guides library and information science research about domestic violence survivors.
Theory: User Perspective of the Information Search Process
Theorist: Carol C. Kuhlthau
Main thesis: Main thesis: Looks at the search process from a user perspective, and suggests that the uncertainty inherent in information seeking often creates user anxiety that shapes the ongoing process by which individuals develop a personal perspective of information that is often at variance with formal information systems.
Example: Selima Serna explains how bike commuters generally use an informal search process to find information.
Theory: Information Encountering
Theorist: Sandra Erdelez
Main thesis: Information acquisition is not always an active process; the transmission of information often comes organically through accidental encounters of bumping into information.
Example: Amy S. Moskovitz notes that the abundance of online information available about Phish lends itself to Phish fans frequently encountering information serendipitously.
Theory: Human Information Behavior
Theorist: Anders Hektor
Main thesis: . Information seeking behavior takes place in the context of daily social life activities that influence how information is developed, applied, and shared.
Example: Hartel, Fox, & Griffin (2016) explores how Hektor’s model can be applied to studies of information behavior in serious leisure.
Theory: Radial Change Theory
Theorist: Eliza Dresang
Main Thesis: Radical Change theory suggests that many of the changes in information resources and human behavior in this digital age can be explained through these core concepts: connectivity, interactivity, and access.
Example: Radical Change Theory
Bates, M. J. (1989). The design of browsing and berrypicking techniques for the online search interface. Online review, 13(5), 407-424.
Chatman, E. A. (1996). The impoverished life-world of outsiders. Journal of the American
Society for Information Science, 47(3), 193-206.
Erdelez, S. (1999). Information encountering: It’s more than just bumping into information.
Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science 25(3). Retrieved from http://
Fisher, K. E., Erdelez, S., & McKechnie, L. (2005). Theories of information behavior. Medford, N.J.: Published for the American Society for Information Science and Technology by Information Today. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip0511/2005010420.html
Hartel, J., Fox, A. M., & Griffin, B. L. (2016). Information activity in serious leisure. Information Research 21(4). Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/21-4/paper728.html
Hektor, A. (2001). What’s the use: Internet and information behavior in everyday life. Linkoping, Sweden: Linkoping University. (Linkoping Studies in Arts and Science 240). Retrieved from http://liu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A254863&dswid=6661 (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6kJ1plDbi)
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1991). Inside the search process: Information seeking from the user’s
perspective. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 361-371.
Retrieved from http://bogliolo.eci.ufmg.br/downloads/kuhlthau.pdf
Savolainen, R. (2010). Everyday Life Information Seeking. In M. Bates & M.N. Maack (Eds.),
Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, (Rev. ed., pp.1780-1789). doi:
Helper Guide originally created by Megan Keane @lilvoverdue