This post continues to address “The Literature” of our research area and celebrates a second major resource: the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST) literature reviews of information behavior.
A special and important reference genre, the literature review is a survey of publications in a research area that summarizes major themes, developments, and findings. Literature reviews are time and effort saving devices for readers and the capstone of Shera and Egan’s “bibliographic pyramid” (1952) that underlies academic knowledge production. The authors of literature reviews are typically seasoned experts in a specialty or energetic younger scholars who use their dissertation literature review as a point of departure.
I have fond memories of my early days as a doctoral student at UCLA and diving headlong into ARIST chapters, eager to “get my mind around”the information behavior literature. Each chapter proved to be a snapshot of information behavior scholarship in its day. As I moved longitudinally through the ARIST series, I was able to make out the contours, evolution, and personality of the information behavior domain.
In his textbook on information behavior, Donald Case (2006, 238-243) provides a great overview of ARIST chapters. He states that ARIST is “the main vehicle by which interested scholars kept abreast of research on information behavior” (p. 239). Still, he critically observes that the series is a real “patchwork” with“redundant” coverage and “underdetermination” of relevant documents (p. 241); further, he asserts that each review is not standardized but shaped by the predilections of the author. Case also notes that the early ARIST chapters (1966-1990) focus on “information behavior” as a whole and later iterations target narrower topics as the speciality matured and diversified. (For a handy listing of early ARIST chapters from Case’s textbook, click here.)
Certain ARIST chapters mark important advances inscholarship that devotees of information behavior should know. Paisely (1968)introduced the idea of information behavior within several nested socialcontexts; the same approach was rediscovered decades later and became a mantra and banner over the “information seeking in context” movement and conference (ISIC). A spirited chapter by Dervin & Nilan (1986) was a call to action to focus on the human information user (versus the information system) and is probably the most highly cited work in the information behavior literature. More recently, Pettigrew, Fidel and Bruce’s (2001) contribution captures the increased methodological sophistication and diversity in our community. The latest comprehensive ARIST chapter on information behavior is a mammoth one by Fisher and Julien (2009), which invited the research community (via this mailing list) to nominate works for inclusion.
All SIG-USErs: Please share your thoughts on the information behavior chapters in ARIST. It would be especially interesting to hear from chapter authors: Brenda? Paul? Karen? Heidi? Others?
Thanks to Sarah and Lynn for stimulating responses to last week’s posting. Going forward, we consider another fine gateway into the literature: Donald Case’s (2006) information behavior textbook Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior 2nd ed.
Shera, J. & Egan, M. (1952). Foundations of a theory of bibliography, Library Quarterly, 22, 125-137.
If you missed my recent introductory post about this new SIG-USE mailing list initiative, you can check it out below (Message 1).
The first theme is “The Literature” of information behavior and today’s message focuses on a great resource, the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd edition (Bates & Maack, 2010), known for short as ELIS. [This ELIS is not to be confused with another beloved information behavior ELIS, “everyday life information seeking” coined by Reijo Savolainen (1995)].
Encyclopedias are designed as gateways to topics and literatures. I have personally slogged through many research projects only to learn later of a succinct and authoritative encyclopedia article that would have expedited my progress significantly. We are fortunate that one of the ELIS editors, Marcia J. Bates, was a pioneer of information behavior (teaching the first class on the subject at Berkeley in the 1970s); she has given information behavior generous treatment in ELIS. Dozens of leading information behavior scholars have made excellent contributions to this encyclopedia.
The articles in the ELIS print and online versions are arranged in alphabetical order by title, a traditional access strategy that scatters related topics. Fortunately, there is a separate “Topical Table of Contents” (TTOC) that restores the conceptual relationships between the articles (available as a PDF on Bates’ website and also available in both the print and online versions of ELIS). One can use the TTOC as a navigational device to the information sciences and information behavior, specifically. It would be time well spent for any newcomer to information behavior to peruse the ELIS TTOC just as one examines a road map to begin a journey. Here, using the ELIS TTOC, we will consider: Within the library and information sciences, where or how does information behavior fit?
Stepping back, the encyclopedia is structured around 11 topical categories: 1.) Information Disciplines and Professions, 2.) Concepts, Theories, Ideas, 3.) Research Areas, 4.) Institutions, 5.) Systems and Networks, 6.) Literatures, Genres, and Documents, 7.) Professional Services and Activities, 8.) People Using Cultural Resources, 9.) Organizations, 10.) National Cultural Institutions and Resources, and 11.) History.
There are 4 places where information behavior scholarship is concentrated:
Topical category 1, Information Disciplines and Professions, has a section on Information Science. There, Information Behavior is one of 6 major constituents of information science (alongside Information Architecture, Information Management, Information Retrieval Experimentation, Informetrics,and User Centered Design of Information Systems). This is where you can read the article Information Behavior (Bates) and related but narrower articles on Information Behavior Models (Wilson), Information Needs (Naumer & Fisher) and Information Practice (Fulton & Henefer). That should get you warmed up!
Topical category 2, Concepts, Theories, and Ideas, is the home of several major concerns and discoveries of information behavior research. Here you will find statements on the Information Search Process (ISP) Model (Kuhlthau), Information Overload (Tidline), Library Anxiety (Mizrachi), and Sense-Making (Dervin & Naumer), among others. Tip: read these before attempting to reconnoitre the subjects on your own.
In topical category 3, Research Specialties, a sub-section entitled Information Behavior and Searching serves as a banner over several research tributaries associated with information behavior, namely, Information Searching and Search Models (Xie), Information Use for Decision Making (Cokely, Schooler & Gigerenzer), Personal Information Management (Jones), and Reading and Reading Acquisition (Byrne), among others. There is also a well-stocked section on Information Retrieval, which is closely related to information behavior.
Finally, topical category 8, People Using Cultural Resources, showcases the prevalent socio-cultural approach to information behavior, also known as “information (seeking/use/behavior/practice) in context.” Here you can enjoy broad articles on the Internet and Public Library Use (Jorgensen) and Reading Interests (Sheldrick Ross). Narrower articles treat social worlds such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Information Needs (Keilty), Older Adults’ Information Needs and Behavior (Williamson & Asla), Students’ Information Needs and Behavior (Julien), and Youth Information Needs and Behavior (Gross), among others. There are also articles that address information behavior in various subject areas such as Area and Interdisciplinary Studies...(Westbrook), Arts...(Zack), Biological Information...(Shankar), Business Information...(Abels) and many more. [Doctoral students: set your sights on becoming an authority in an undocumented social world and then write the article for the next (4th) edition of ELIS.]
To close, within the library and information sciences ELIS casts
information behavior as:
* one of six major areas within the discipline of information science
* a unifying banner over a number of important concepts, models, and ideas
* a research specialty and site of several active research tributaries
* an organizing lens on information phenomena in social worlds
A tension underlies these multiple perspectives on information behavior within ELIS. Some represent the nomothetic (scientific) tradition that seeks abstractions and generalities, and others reflect an idiographic (humanistic) tradition that privileges texture and distinctions. Reading these articles altogether requires a nimble mind that can leap across the metatheories (or “isms”) of the information sciences.
All SIG-USErs: Your general comments on ELIS or this posting are
ELIS is just one way to see the literature of information behavior; complementary views will be presented in forthcoming posts. Up next: ARIS&T (Annual Review of Information Science & Technology) chapters on information behavior.
Bates, M. J. and Maack, M.N. (Eds.) (2010). Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd Ed. New York: CRC Press. (Also available in online form.) See also Introduction to ELIS, Topical Table of Contents (penultimate version), and Alphabetical Table of Contents.
Savolainen, R. (1995). Everyday life information seeking: approaching information seeking in the context of way of life. Library &Information Science Research, 17(3), 259-294.
I have volunteered to contribute on a regular basis to this mailing list in an effort to stimulate discussion and enhance a sense of community. For those who don’t know me, I am an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto and a SIG-USE member.
My postings will hopefully be of general interest to all participants in SIG-USE. However, they will be written specifically for students of information behavior within information studies. It seems a most important project for a SIG to develop its next generation. Students, please spread the word of this learning opportunity to your peers; ducators please rally your students into the list.
Given the above objective, and to organize the process, I will focus on themes and write 4-6 postings per theme at a rate of about one message per week. Since mine is not the definitive perspective on information behavior, I will count upon the input of others in our community to round out the view. All are encouraged to join the conversation.
The first theme is “The Literature” and will help newcomers enter the wonderful, shaggy literature of information behavior. During this first theme there will be individual postings on the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, an information behavior textbook, and an information behavior handbook. Later themes will be “History and Foundations,” “Metatheory,” “Major Concepts,” and “Methods.” The thematic approach may change if a better communication format emerges organically.
There is lively debate in our research area today about basic terminology: “information behavior” versus “information practice” and so on. This issue will be side-stepped for now; I will simply use “information behavior” as a banner for the research area well described on the SIG-USE website.
Jenna Hartel, Assistant Professor
Faculty of Information,
University of Toronto
Jenna Hartel, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto