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.
Jenna Hartel, Associate Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto