For most taking this course, the concept of an Information Community is new, and requires a new mental vantage point to reframe our understanding of the communities we encounter every day. For some, identifying and choosing an information community for research might seem a tremendously daunting task, and for others it might seem obvious from the start. It is important, however, to critically evaluate the community you are considering for its efficacy as a focus for the semester’s work.
INFO 200 instructor Ellen Greenblatt shared these points to consider as you decide on your information community:
- Keep in mind that the focal point of your research throughout the course must be on the information-seeking behaviors of your community.
- Take a look at the upcoming course assignments and visualize how your proposed information community fits within their guidelines.
- Explore your topic in the Library & Information Science Source (LISS) database or Google Scholar to get a sense of whether any scholarly research has been done on your proposed information community. (For additional helpful resources see: Library and Information Science Guide: INFO 200 (Links to an external site.)
- Be aware of the larger communities under which your information community falls so that you can broaden your research, if necessary.
Getting Started – don’t procrastinate on the assigned readings and recordings!
Identifying an information community for your research comes early in the semester. Module 2 introduces you to graduate-level research in the LIS discipline. It is important to prepare yourself by completing the readings and viewing the recordings provided through Modules #3 and 4, which should provide you with a solid understanding of the definition of an information community, information needs, and information-seeking behaviors.
Review the assignment descriptions, requirements, and rubrics carefully!
- All of the assignments this semester will center on the information needs and information-seeking behaviors of the Information Community you choose as your focus within the first few weeks of term:
- Research Paper – You will be required to identify an Information Community to examine, locate and critically evaluate the scholarly and professional literature relating to that community’s information-seeking behavior and needs, gather additional data about your users’ information practices and preferences from community-based resources, and report on the results.
- Information Sources Survey – The goal of this assignment is to help you to identify and evaluate information sources and determine appropriate users and uses. Based on your research, you will describe your chosen Information Community and the types of information sought and valued by its members.
- Literature Review Matrix – Using LIS databases and other pertinent information sources, locate 10 to 12 secondary sources about your Information Community’s information needs and information-seeking behaviors.
- Reflection Blogging – Five posts will include substantial content, citations, and reflective thinking about your Information Community’s information needs and information-seeking behaviors.
- Commenting, Engagement and Participation – One of the many roles of Information Specialists is to engage with and connect with information communities. This is practiced throughout the semester by commenting on student blog posts, and participating in the INFO 200 Community Site.
Determining an appropriate Information Community
Select a community that interests you, but avoid choosing an information community in which you play an integral role, potentially leading to discussions on common interest rather than research on the information needs and information-seeking behaviors of the community.
- Taking an interest in the information community you select will drive your research and fuel your motivation throughout the semester. However, sometimes deep involvement in the chosen community leads to more enthusiast-based discourse rather than objective, academic research related to the community’s information needs and information-seeking behaviors.
- Researching and synthesizing the information needs and information-seeking behaviors of your focus community requires a balance in objectivity of and affinity for the information community you select.
Select a community that might already be of interest to Information Professionals:
- Research of a community that has captured the curiosity of other information professionals will yield results more readily than research of an especially obscure community.
- Avoid choosing an information community that is too narrow or obscure to afford substantive data from the literature to be collected in your research, especially as it relates to information needs and information-seeking behaviors.
- Additionally, avoid choosing an information community that is too broad to adequately cover within the scope of the assignment.
For inspiration, check out this list of successfully researched information communities of previous INFO 200 students.
The following are example questions that you will likely ask and pursue in your research:
- What are the information needs of your focus community?
- What are the information uses, behaviors and preferences of your focus community?
- Where do community members look for information, and are they successful?
- Where can they find the information they need or want, and is it accessible to them?
- What are the themes of information-seeking behavior within your focus information community?
- How can the information professional better connect the information community to needed and desirable information?
See this page for a sample of Blog Post #2 identifying an information community and successfully illustrating its relationship to the Fisher and Durrance’s definition of an information community.