Models of information-seeking behaviorInformation Seeking Definitions Traditionally information seeking behavior focused on retrieval of information and it‟sprocessing. A variety of library surveys were undertaken and predictions about user informationseeking behavior were made, based on the use of library material, bibliographic databases, andlibrary OPAC‟s etc. Recent studies have focused more on information seeking behavior of theusers on the World Wide Web. Definitions of human information seeking behavior by leadingLIS professionals and their concerns are discussed here. Marchionini gives the appropriate definition of information seeking as “a process in whichhumans purposefully engage in order to change their state of knowledge (Marchionini 1995). Information seeking behavior is defined as any activity of an individual that is undertaken toidentify a message that satisfies a perceived need. Wilson defined Information seeking behavior is the purposive seeking for information as aconsequence of a need to satisfy some goal. In the course of seeking, the individual may interactwith manual information system (such as a newspaper or a library) or with computer-basedsystems (such as world wide web).IntroductionInformation seeking behaviour refers to the way people search for and utilize information.In2000, Wilson described information behaviour as the totality of human behaviour in relation tosources and channels of information, including both active and passive information-seeking, andinformation use. He described information seeking behaviour as purposive seeking of informationas a consequence of a need to satisfy some goal. Information seeking behaviour is the micro-levelof behaviour employed by the searcher in interacting with information systems of all kinds, be itbetween the seeker and the system, or the pure method of creating and following up on a search.A variety of theories of information behaviour - e.g. Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort, BrendaDervins Sense Making, Elfreda Chatmans Life in the Round - seek to understand the processesthat surround information seeking Wilson had suggested to the BLRDD that a more comprehensive review of the literature infields other than information science could draw attention to useful models; theoretical conceptsand research instruments that might be employed in future work from an information scienceperspective. The information-seeking behaviour process evolved by Wilson (1981) and shows how thatmodel may be revised in the light of work in other fields.B. T. Fidzani “reports results of a questionnaire survey to determine the information seekingbehavior and use of information resources by graduate students at Botswana University. Thepurpose of the survey was to determine their information requirements and their awareness from144 students out of a total of 223 part time and full time graduate students. Findings indicated that
guidance in the use of library resources and services is necessary and that periodicals andtextbooks are the most popular sources of information for course work and research and thatstudent need to be taught how to use the library. The study recommends that a furtherquestionnaire survey be conducted on students‟ ability to use information resources andadministered during registration to all master students”.T. D. Wilson “ Paper presents an outline of models of information seeking and other aspects ofinformation behavior, showing the relationship between communication and information behaviorin general with information seeking and information searching in information retrieval systems. Itis suggested that these models address issue of various levels of information behavior and thatthey can be related by envisaging a „nesting‟ of models. It is also suggested that, within bothinformation seeking research and information searching research, alternative models addresssimilar issues in related ways and that the models are complementary rather than conflicting.Finally, an alternative, problem-solving model is presented, which, it is suggested, provides abasis for relating the models in appropriate research strategies”.When we turn to information-seeking behaviour the models are rather more numerous: five willbe discussed here: Wilsons (1981) model of information-seeking behaviour; Devin‟s (1983)sense-making theory; Elliss (1989 and 1993) behavioural model of information seekingstrategies; Kuhlthaus (1991) model of the stages of information-seeking behaviour; and Wilsons(1996) model, which expands his 1981 model through an analysis of the literature in fields otherthan information science.Wilson, 1981Wilsons second model of 1981 is based upon two main propositions:First, that information need is not a primary need, but a secondary need that arises out of needs ofa more basic kind; andSecond, that in the effort to discover information to satisfy a need, the enquirer is likely to meetwith barriers of different kinds. Drawing upon definitions in psychology, Wilson proposes that the basic needs can be defined asphysiological, cognitive or affective. He goes on to note that the context of any one of these needsmay be the person him- or herself, or the role demands of the persons work or life, or theenvironments (political, economic, technological, etc.) within which that life or work takes place.He then suggests that the barriers that impede the search for information will arise out of the sameset of contexts.This model is shown in a simplified version. Wilsons model is clearly what may be described asa macro-model or a model of the gross information-seeking behavior and it suggests howinformation needs arise and what may prevent (and, by implication, aid) the actual search forinformation. It also embodies, implicitly, a set of hypotheses about information behavior that aretestable: for example, the proposition that information needs in different work roles will bedifferent, or that personal traits may inhibit or assist information seeking. Thus, the model can beregarded as a source of hypotheses, which is a general function of models of this kind.
The weakness of the model is that all of the hypotheses are only implicit and are not madeexplicit. Nor is there any indication of the processes whereby context has its effect upon theperson, nor of the factors that result in the perception of barriers, nor of whether the variousassumed barriers have similar or different effects upon the motivation of individuals to seekinformation. However, the very fact that the model is lacking in certain elements stimulatesthinking about the kinds of elements that a more complete model ought to include.Three sets of "barriers" to information-seeking behaviour are shown, which are related tothe dimensions of the situation in which the person finds himself or herself: 1. Personal, individual Barriers; 2. Social or role-related Barriers; or Interpersonal Barriers and 3. Environmental Barriers.This formulation has been repeated in one form or another by other writers, some of whom usewhat we propose as the preferred term, intervening variables.There is, however, a certain difficulty in positioning the barriers between the identification ofinformation-seeking as a suitable coping strategy and the information-seeking behaviour itself. Infact, the barriers, particularly those at the level of the person, may act to prevent the initial
emergence of a coping strategy, or may intervene between the acquisition of information and itsuse.As with other aspects of information-seeking behaviour, the intervening variables have beenquite exhaustively discussed in the study of personality, health communication literature,consumer research, and innovation studies. The other areas considered in this review (decision-making and information system requirements) contribute rather less.1. Personal / Individual Barriers :a)Emotional variablesb) Educational variablesc)Demographic variables2.Social/interpersonal Barriers :3.Environmental Barriers :a)Economic variablesb)Source characteristics1. Personal / Individual Barriers :a) Emotional VariablesIn a study of the information-seeking behaviour of cancer out-patients found characteristics of thepatient could act as barriers to seeking information during a consultation with that certain thedoctor. These included physiological characteristics such as hearing problems (experienced by 5%of the sample), cognitive characteristics such as the lack of medical knowledge (5%) and verballimitations (5%), as well as nervousness (20%) perhaps signifying emotional problems. The studyconcluded that three factors determined the information-seeking behaviour of patients: 1. The characteristics and perceptions of the patient. 2. Certain characteristics of the patients companion and the specialist. 3. Characteristics of the organization and situation.b) Educational VariablesLevel of education has been explored as an intervening variable by a number of researchers. Forexample, in the study by Kassulke, educational level was associated with risky behaviour inrelation to cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and with risky behaviour bywomen in relation to a number of health factors, such as checks for breast cancer and cervicalsmear tests. In the field of consumer behavior.Individuals, the more likely they will view themselves as knowledgeable about the subject. Inconditions of privacy it was found that persons with less perceived knowledge (that is, lower self-perceptions) searched more. In public settings the relationships were more complex but, overall,the study concludes that perceived knowledge is a central construct in the analysis of information-seeking behaviour, perhaps more so that actual knowledge.
c) Demographic variables: age, sex & other factorsConnell & Crawford (1988) found that the amount of health information received by urbanresidents from all sources declined with age, but that older rural women received a great deal ofinformation from a variety of sources and that the amount declined only slightly with age. Oldermen received far less information than younger men.Connell & Crawford (1988) found women reported receiving more health information than menfrom all sources and attributed this to womens traditional role as a care-giver and lay health careprovider.Feick et al. (1986) studied womens searching behaviour for nutrition information on food labels.The study found that participants with children searched for nutrition and ingredient informationon particular products, without showing an overall interest in more general nutrition information,suggesting that concern for their children was the motivating factor in information search.2. Social/interpersonal Barriers :Interpersonal problems are likely to arise whenever the information source is a person, or whereinterpersonal interaction is needed to gain access to other kinds of information sources.Borgers et al. (1993) found cancer patients identified several barriers to successful informationseeking during consultations, these included the attitude of the specialist, and the presence ofother people, such as clinical assistants during the consultation.In examining the behaviour of scientists in acquiring information relevant to research anddevelopment.3.Environmental Barriers :a) Economic VariablesThe economic issues related to information-seeking behaviour fall into two categories: directeconomic costs, and the value of time. These may apply either to the process of information-seeking itself, or to the consequent actions.Prices change with varying frequency in all markets, and, unless a market is completelycentralized, no one will know all the prices which various sellers (or buyers) quote at any giventime. A buyer (or seller) who wishes to ascertain the most favorable price must canvass varioussellers (or buyers) - a phenomenon I shall term "search."b) source characteristicsAccessA fundamental requirement for information-seeking is that some source of information should beaccessible. The lack of an easily accessible source may inhibit information-seeking altogether, ormay impose higher costs than the enquirer is prepared to pay.
CredibilityIf a seeker of information discovers that an information source is unreliable in the quality andaccuracy of the information delivered he or she is likely to regard the source as lacking incredibility. As may be expected, this is a subject of considerable interest in consumer research,since advertisers must persuade consumers to believe their claims for products and services.Channel of communicationAlthough not strictly a characteristic of the source, the communication channel through which theinformation is received is sufficiently closely tied to the source to be considered here. In a studyof bicycle safety helmet use it was found that threatening information (that is, on the dangers ofnon-use of safety helmets and the need for use) was more effectively presented throughinterpersonal channels, such as through telephone conversations, rather than through the massmedia: Threatening messages given over mass media channels may simply be ignored by theaudience, whereas threatening messages given interpersonally may force audience members toevaluate a given health risk.References:Information seeking behavior (n.d.), retrieved from, 18 september, 2012.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_seeking_behaviorChoukhande, V.G. Information needs and information seeking behavior. Place : Shivneri Publisher &Distributor. Pg.294