Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP)
LI 810XD Spring Semester 2009 Lori Franklin, SLIM Ph.D. student, Emporia State University
Some information about me:
• ESU SLIM doctoral student.
• 13 years experience as school lib i
i h l librarian.
• Have worked at all K-12 levels.
• Earned M.L.S. degree from Florida State
University in 1996
• Research interest: adolescents and the experiences they report
occurring in school library media centers.
• Will probably do a mostly qualitative research study
• Currently interesting in using case studies, interviews, focus groups
and survey data for methodology.
• My research questions are important because the perceptions
adolescents retain regarding their school library experiences may
affect their later use of public, academic and special libraries.
• Married with three children: ages 22, 19, and 17.
• Contact: email@example.com
Visit my school library website: http://teachers.olatheschools.com/oelibrary/
Information Searching Models
• Help us to understand how p p g about finding
p people go g
• May be from a cognitive point of view – what is the brain
d i th t causes th i f
the information-seeking b h i
ti ki behaviors t
• Might also be from a strictly process view aimed towards
the practitioner – a sort of recipe for information
• St di about i f
Studies b t information searching first dealt with user
ti hi fi t d lt ith
behaviors, with the goal of improving systems design.
If you are already working in a library you have personally witnessed a wide variation in
the ways people seek and find information. Can you think of any examples that stand
out? You may have also seen similar behaviors in other types of jobs.
Some of the information-seeking models:
• Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP)
Model (7 stages at differing levels)
• Ann Irving’s Model for Completing
Assignments (9 steps)
Ai t )
• Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz’ Big6 Model
(3 or 6 steps)
• Barbara Stripling and Judy Pitts’ REACTS
Model for term paper p epa at o (10 steps)
ode o te pape preparation ( 0
When I was earning my M.L.S. degree, the Big6 Information Seeking model was very
popular. For more on this model, see: http://www.big6.com
When I was earning my MLS, the Big6 Model was very popular.
• Marjorie Pappas and Ann Tepe’s Pathways to
Knowledge Model (6 non-linear stages)
• Marilyn Joyce and Julie Tallman’s I-Search
Model (4 steps)
• Alice Yucht’s Flip It! Model (4 stages)
p ( g)
• Bob Grover, Carol Fox, and Jackie Lakin’s
Handy 5 Model (5 steps)
For an in depth discussion of the different information searching models, see Nancy P
in-depth models P.
Thomas’ Information Literacy and Information Skills Instruction: Applying Research to
Practice in the School Library Media Center. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.
Why focus on Kuhlthau?
• Considered a seminal contributor to LIS.
• Only model that has been empirically tested.
• Only model that addresses “holistic” view of
information transfer, examining thoughts and
feelings as well as actions.
• Her model has created a common vocabulary
for researchers looking at information searching
As you progress through your own M.L.S. program of study, you will discover many
other seminal figures in LIS; some of these may influence your own conceptual outlook
on what libraries are, and how we as librarians work with our clientele.
In the beginning
• Kuhlthau began her career as a first grade teacher in the
• While teaching, she became “intrigued with the way
children learn to read.”1
• After five years, she considered working towards a
master’s degree as a reading specialist, but a friend
d library school. K hl h earned h MLS
h l Kuhlthau d her
degree at Rutgers University.
• Studied the learning processes of students in her high
school library for her dissertation – this work formed the
basis for the ISP model.
1 From personal e-mail correspondence, July 2008.
Dewey- Phases of Reflective Thinking
Phases Doubt – incomplete situation
Suggestion Conceptualizing the problem
Intellectualization Tentative interpretation
Guiding Idea (hypothesis) Interpretation with more precise facts
Reasoning Idea tested by overt or imaginative action
Kelly – Five Phases of Construction
Confusion and Doubt New experiences
Mounting Confusion/Possible Threat Inconsistent information
yp Provides direction for pursing information
Testing and Assessing Assessing outcome
Reconstruing Assimilating new construct
Bruner – The Interpretive Tasks
Perception Encountering new information
Selection Recognizing patterns
If Joining l t
J i i clusters and categories
Prediction Going beyond information given
Action Creating “products of the mind”
• Kuhlthau’s research questions:
– Do users have common experiences in the process
of information seeking that can be articulated and
d ib d?
– Do users’ experiences resemble the phases in the
process of construction?
The studies discussed here were performed over a 10-year period.
Study #1, continued:
• Administered a questionnaire before research –
designed to determine perceptions; 5-point
• Attempted to develop stages along with 6
categories for each stage:
- task, thoughts, feelings, actions,
strategies, and mood
See a copy of the questionnaire from Study #1 on p. 36 of Seeking Meaning.
Study #1, continued:
• Task Initiation – students here expressed feelings of
• Topic Selection – eased uncertainty to a degree
• Prefocus Exploration – can be most difficult stage if
there is not a focus
• Focus Formulation – for many this is the turning point
in the research effort
• Information Collection – renewed confidence
• Search Closure – beginning writing
Kuhlthau’s work has created a working vocabulary for researchers in this area.
Study #1, continued:
1. Patterns experienced by students matched those
described in the process of construction.
2. Information seeking process model developed.
3. Problems with study: conflict between students
understanding of t k v. actual experiences; students
d t di f task tl i td t
didn’t perceive librarians as more than locators of
resources; the initial study group was small, and not
One value in performing a study is discovering ways to make the next study better!
Stages Task Topic Prefocus Focus Information Search Starting
Initiation Selection Exploration Formulation Collection Closure Writing
F li Uncertainty
U tit Optimism
O ti i Confusion,
Cl it Sense of direction,
S f di ti Relief
R li f Satisfaction
S ti f ti or
frustration, doubt confidence dissatisfaction
Thoughts Ambiguity Specificity
Actions Seeking relevant information Seeking pertinent information
Initiation = awareness of need for knowledge
Selection = general topic defined
Exploration = inconsistent information encountered at this point
Formulation = focus is developed
Collection = information gathered/interest increased
Presentation = search is complete, with new understanding gained
Kuhlthau identifies the stages of the information search process and ties in the
affective states of the information seeker, noting the change from uncertainty to
confidence as understanding is achieved.
ore diverse study (low, middle, and high-achieving
ix of qualitative and quantitative
sed process surveys conceptual maps and perception
Study #2, continued
. Model of information search process
verified – showed that learning began with
vague ththoughts, low confidence and
ht l fid d
progressed to clarification and increased
. Inability to collect data from low-achieving
ion and the ability to generalize study findings are a very important part of
. Even as Kuhlthau continues to verify her hypotheses, she also discovers parts
Study #2, contd.
light correlation found between an increase in
onfidence and teacher assessments of learning
iscovered: quality of i f
i d lit f information search process h
ti h has
ore impact on learning than the quantity of resources.
hat does this say about the role of the school librarian?
’s findings on the importance of the information search process and impact on
are especially pertinent with today’s fiscal situation – the quality of the learning
Study #2, continued:
lso examined users at academic, public and school
ublic library users more confident at initiation. College
t d t more confident at closure than high school
tudents fid t t l th hi h h l
-depth study of undergraduate perceptions of their library experiences, see the
Study #2, continued:
his study is important because it further verified the
nformation search process in other settings (academic,
howed that uncertainty and lack of confidence occurred
efore a research focus was developed.
howed implications for mediation!
eeded ways t gather d t on more di
dd to th data diverse groups –
Study #2 – Longitudinal work
ooked at small group of college students (her former
igh school students) to determine the ISP at the college
uantitative and qualitative.
gain – verified th ISP model.
i ifi d the dl
iscovered that over time, students changed their
earch process expectations to meaning-making
p p g g
rocesses – there was an innate expectation that they
ould become more interested in the topic as the search
probably think of times in your life when your own need for information caused
al searching for information to become meaningful for you. You might think of
omparing the act of finding out which generic prescription brands are covered by
lth insurance company, to a more simple act of “Googling” a local telephone
ncertainty is a cognitive state causing symptoms such
s anxiety and low confidence. It can be expected early
the information search process.
uilt upon earlier theories that information may cause
ore uncertainty than answers
ncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing – it causes
ynamic processes to occur as learning evolves.
rchers informing theories of uncertainty and information seeking include:
, Whittemore & Yovits, Shannon & Weaver, Van Rysbergen, and Foulk.
- librarians, professors, teachers
- family, friends, colleagues, subject experts
member – in Kuhlthau’s studies, librarians were
erceived primarily as information locators.
proach ppeers first, then family and/or colleagues. They will seek out someone
y g y
ceive to be a subject expert before they will ask a librarian for help! As you learn
Kuhlthau’s Levels of Mediation
rganizer – no intervention, self service searching
g , g
ocator – ready-reference intervention, single fact or
dentifier – standard reference intervention;
dvisor – pattern intervention;
ounselor – process intervention, constructive search;
Zones of Intervention
eeds determine differing levels of intervention.
ypical interventions might include: interviewing (for
larity), determining the problem statement, finding out
h user’s b k
he ’ background on th t i di
d the topic, diagnosis using a
heory base (product or process), and completing the
wn efforts to help other people (a relative, or colleague, for example) find
Instructional activities and zones
rvention Zone Student Need Instructional Activity
No assistance needed – student is
working on his/her own.
Library orientation; reference
Help with locating and using relevant
resources for a specific need.
Identification and use of relevant
resources in a sequence (looks like
Assistance in understanding the
process, in the development of
searching strategies, in the formulation
of the focus, and in determining
relevance of retrieved items, etc.
out those students (especially at the high school level) who only formally use
Kuhlthau’s other studies
awyers – discovered that information search process
as familiar; noted need for information providers
ocating and communicating complex background
nformation at project initiation. Librarians also helpful at
idpoint, when resource “explosion” may be
uhlthau calls for intense preparation of information
orkers to provide invention and collaboration in both
rganizational and library settings.
er work h i f
k has informed many i f
d information search process
tudies (both in education and in the work force)
erformed since the 1990s.
Burdick’s work with gender
ollowed up Kuhlthau’s ISP work
ender differences occur at affective level.
irls – more likely to: seek assistance, work together, be
ptimistic at task initiation and doubtful and uncertain at
ompletion; be reflective; explore and focus topics; be
ess optimistic overall in abilities.
oys – more likely to: not ask for help; express
onfidence; be active; be more emphatic in collecting
ata and completion; more comfortable expressing
References list for a citation of Burdick’s 1996 study with students in grades 10-
Your assignment, Part A.
ase post your answers to ONE of the questions below on the
ckboard discussion list for: Discussion Questions Set 1 1.
m looking forward to reading your comments. I also encourage you to
vide cross-commentary – read your classmates’ comments and
e feedback. This sharing of discussion will enrich your own
derstanding of this topic
estion 1: Now that you have a concrete example of how LIS
earch informs our understanding of learning, and how librarians play
art in that process, please think of an example from your own life
ere K hlth ’ fi di
Kuhlthau’s findings might b h l f l
i ht be helpful.
estion 2: If students in high schools tend to perceive teacher-
rarians as information resource locators, how will this affect their
rception and use of library services at academic and p
p y public levels?
estion 3: What are some of your own research questions regarding
raries in general? Be creative! Your answer might come from your own
rk experiences or from interactions you have had in libraries.
on answers are to be posted between Feb. 1 and Feb. 14, 2009.
Your assignment, Part B.
here are five articles in Blackboard available in pdf
ormat, under the heading: Di
t d th h di Discussion Set 1.
i S t1
lease choose ONE article to read and provide, via the
lackboard discussion group, your thoughts about what
he article means to you personally – you might respond
h ti l t ll i ht d
rom the viewpoint of someone who is already working in
library setting, or someone who works in another
lease share your impressions, information you have
leaned from this presentation that helped you read the
rticle or how well you think this article fits in with the
mportance of research in LIS. Please cite the article in
our discussion. Your response should be no longer than
on answers are to be posted between Feb. 1 and Feb. 14, 2009.
Blackboard Discussion Rubric
No evidence Required Required actions are provided, and student shows extended
provided of actions effort (following classmates’ comments beyond one interaction,
actions. are providing additional reading suggestions from their own reading,
provided. sharing concrete examples that describe their understanding of
Kuhlthau’s work, etc.).
0 5 10
nt, Part A
0 5 10
nt, Part B
0 5 10
able to make
0 5 10
research and real-
erical i di t
i l indicators are provided h
id d here f an example. G d will not b t lli d per participant. Thi rubric allows f a
for l Grades ill t be tallied ti i t This b i ll for
of zero points and a maximum of 40 points for an assignment. When teachers facilitate higher-order thinking
a rubric helps students understand the extension required to achieve the highest score.
ckboard Discussion Rubric is provided to help you ascertain the level of
on that I expect. You will not be receiving a grade from this rubric; rather, it is
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