LIB 640 Information Sources and Services
What Is Information Seeking?
• In the simplest terms, information seeking
involves the search, retrieval, recognition,
and application of meaningful content. This
search may be explicit or implicit, the
retrieval may be the result of specific
strategies or serendipity, the resulting
information may be embraced or rejected,
the entire experience may be carried through
to a logical conclusion or aborted in
midstream, and there may be a million other
• Kingrey, K. P. (2002, Spring). Concepts of information seeking
and their presence in the practical library literature.
Library Philosophy and Practice, 4, 2
What is information seeking?
Question 1: Why seek for information?
What is the motivation?
Why Seek? Theory 1
ASK Hypothesis developed by
Nicholas Belkin (Rutgers)
•“. . . Anomalous States-of-Knowledge
(abbreviated to ASK). . . . Situations
in which the patrons’ knowledge [is]
incomplete or limited in some way, and
they need further information to get on,
the patrons are seen to be in an anomalous state of
• Ammentorp, S. and Hummelshøj, M. (2001). Ask a librarian: Web-
based reference question services: a model for development. Paper
presented at 11th NI&D Conference. Spring for information.
Reykjavik, 30 May–1 June 2001. Retrieved 22. September, 2004.
Why Seek? Theory 2
The Uncertainty Principle
developed by Carol
• Uncertainty initiates the
process of information
• Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004, May).
Retrieved June 14, 2007.
Why Seek? Theory 3
The Gap that does not make sense (“Sense-
• “. . . Dervin presents to us a picture
of a man walking along a road,
when he comes upon an impassable
hole in the ground. In this situation,
he is obviously facing a gap. What
is he to do now?”
• Kari, J. (1998, November). Making sense of sense-making: From
metatheory to substantive theory in the context of paranormal
information seeking. Paper presented at Nordis-Net workshop
(Meta)theoretical stands in studying library and information
institutions: individual, organizational and societal aspects, November
12–15 1998, Oslo, Norway. Retrieved September 22, 2004.
See also: Savolainen, R. (2006, April 25) Information use as gap-bridging: The
viewpoint of sense-making methodology. Journal of the Association for
Information Science and Technology. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
An illustration of Dervin’s “Gap”
Question 2: Who’s doing the seeking?
Defining the seeker
Who Seeks? Theory 1
Anomalous State of Knowledge
(ASK) hypothesis (Belkin):
• “. . . patrons in problematic situations.”
• Ammentorp, S. and Hummelshøj, M. Ask a
Librarian: Web-Based Reference Question
Services: A Model for Development.”
Who Seeks? Theory 2
Kulthau’s Information Search Process:
• People experience the ISP [Information Search
Process] holistically with an interplay of
thoughts, feelings, and actions.
• Kuhlthau, Carol C. “An Overview of the Information
Search Process.” Retrieved June 14, 2007.
Who Seeks? Theory 3
• “. . . [a] patron [who] is seen as being locked
in a situation unable to move further because
of some kind of gap in his knowledge.”
• Ammentorp and Hummelshøj, Ask a librarian:
web-based reference question services: A model
Question 3: How do they seek?
Methods of searching
How Do They Seek? Theory 1
• “. . . users performing some activity feel that
they have a knowledge gap that cannot be
filled directly, and consequently they engage
into an information seeking process. . .”
• Brajnik, G. (1999, June). Information seeking as
explorative learning. Retrieved Sept. 7th, 2003.
Assistant Professor in
Computer Science, University
of Udine, Italy
How Do They Seek? Theory 2
• “The critical component of the
ISP is the person’s own
formulation of a focus that
involves gaining a personal
perspective of the topic or subject
while using a variety of sources of information.
In other words, users are constructing their
own understandings through inquiry.”
• Kuhlthau, C. “Research Interests.” Last Updated January
2012. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
How Do They Seek? Theory 3
• “ . . . the patron is seen as being locked in a
situation unable to move further because
of some kind of gap in his knowledge.
However the patron tries to bridge this gap
by asking questions and using the answers
to closing the gap, making new sense. As
Belkin, Dervin sees the nature of the
information need as something situational
changing as the patron tries to bridge the
• Ammentorp and Hummelshøj, “Ask a Librarian: Web-
Based Reference Question Services: A Model for
Who, How, Why?
“active search for information”
• Wilson, Tom and Christina Walsh. “A
revised general model of information
behaviour” ch. 7 of “Information
Behaviour: An Inter-Disciplinary
Perspective.” British Library Research
and Innovation Report 10. A report to the
British Library Research & Innovation
Centre on a review of the literature.
Retrieved Sept. 8th, 2003.
Another Motivation to Consider
Self-Generated or Imposed?
• internally motivated by personal context
• thought up by one person then given to
someone else to resolve
• Gross, M. (2001, January). Imposed
information seeking in public libraries and
school library media centers: a common
behaviour? Information Research, 6, 2.
Retrieved Sept. 8th, 2003.
Process of Searching
• Carol C. Kuhlthau, Jannica Heinström and Ross J. Todd,
“The ‘information search process’ revisited: is the model
still useful?” Information Research VOL. 13 NO. 4,