Assignment Helper – Overview of Information Seeking Behavior Theories

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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.

Theory: “Berrypicking”

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.

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.

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.

Theory: User Perspective of the Information Search Process

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.

Theory: Information Encountering

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.

Theory: Human Information Behavior

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.

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

Hartel, J., Fox, A. M., & Griffin, B. L. (2016). Information activity in serious leisure. Information Research 21(4). Retrieved from

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 (Archived by WebCite® at

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

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