Amy ByrneLIS 561Critical Review<br />Fisher, K., Naumer, C., Durrance, J., Stromski, L., & Christiansen, T. (2005).  Somet...
Critical Review: Something old, something new: preliminary findings from an exploratory study about people’s information h...
Critical Review: Something old, something new: preliminary findings from an exploratory study about people’s information h...
Critical Review: Something old, something new: preliminary findings from an exploratory study about people’s information h...
Critical Review: Something old, something new: preliminary findings from an exploratory study about people’s information h...
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Critical Review: Something old, something new: preliminary findings from an exploratory study about people’s information habits and information grounds

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This is a critical review I did for an assignment in LIS 651: Information Use and Users at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a part of classes for my MLIS degree, which I earned May 16, 2010.

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Critical Review: Something old, something new: preliminary findings from an exploratory study about people’s information habits and information grounds

  1. 1. Amy ByrneLIS 561Critical Review<br />Fisher, K., Naumer, C., Durrance, J., Stromski, L., & Christiansen, T. (2005). Something old, something new: preliminary findings from an exploratory study about people’s information habits and information grounds. Information Research, 10(2) paper 223. Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/10-2/paper223.html<br />Dr. Karen E. Fisher is an associate professor at The Information School at the University of Washington at Seattle, WA. She teaches and conducts research on information behavior and social and cognitive aspects of how individuals need, seek, give and use information in different contexts. Dr. Fisher is the author of several books including one she wrote with Dr. Joan Durrance titled How Libraries and Librarians Help: A guide to identifying user-centered outcomes. Charles Naumer is a PhD student at the same university. Dr. Joan Durrance is a Margaret Mann Collegiate Professor at the School of Information at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, MI. She teaches and conducts research in information needs and use in community settings, community information systems, the evaluation of information services, and the professional practice of librarians. Dr. Durrance is also the author of several books and articles. Both Lynn Stromski and Torben Christiansen were employees of the United Way of King County, Seattle, WA at the time of this article, but a search of the site’s webpage did not show that they are still employed there anymore. Further searches on the internet do not show any recent places of employment.<br />The authors’ research explored the sixth principle of Harris and Dewdney’s (1994) six principles of everyday information seeking. The sixth principle (p. 27) states that, “people follow habitual patterns in seeking information.” They go on to state that people, “tend to seek information that is easily accessible, preferably from interpersonal sources such as friends, relatives or co-workers rather than from institutions or organizations, unless there is a particular reason for avoiding interpersonal sources.” (Harris and Dewdney 1994: 21-26) The authors also use Pettigrew’s (the maiden name of Fisher in this study) (1998, 1999) field work at community clinics where she came up with the idea of “information grounds” to further explore the idea that people get information from all different kinds of places and people. The authors describe the purpose of their paper as being “three-fold: (1) to share our preliminary findings, (2) to elaborate upon our experience with conducting a large-scale survey, and (3) to discuss ideas for further analysis and investigation.” (Fisher et al 2005)<br />The authors were interested in exploring peoples’ information habits and information grounds, so a large scale survey was appealing to them. However, the cost of conducting a large scale survey was prohibitive. They discovered that colleagues at the United Way of King County (UWKC) were planning a large scale telephone survey that had relevance to their research interest in people’s everyday information behavior. While the survey was designed and directed by the UWKC research staff and was being utilized by this staff to understand the health and human service needs of residents, the authors were able to include the eight questions they wanted answered.<br />The chosen methodology was to conduct telephone interviews with 612 residents located throughout various geographical areas of East King County, Washington. Cluster sampling of each of the twenty-two postal code areas was utilized. The survey calls were conducted by trained staff in a call center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and were conducted in either English or Spanish. Members of the research team periodically listened in on the telephone surveys to ascertain that the call center staff were administering the survey correctly. The interview staff was trained in asking open ended questions and were given interview questions with follow up probes to use as a guide for conducting the interviews. The demographics of the participants included 63% female and 37% male whose ages ranged from under 35 to over 65, with an average age of 49.7. The respondents were 84% Caucasian, 5% Hispanic, 5% Asian, 1% African American, and 5% refused to give their ethnicity. 58% of the respondents reported an annual household income of over $50,000. 36% of the respondents said that they had postgraduate training, 41% had graduated from college, 12% had some college education, and 11% completed all or some of high school.<br />The questions asked of the survey participants that related to the work of the authors were: “Generally speaking, where or to whom do you mostly turn when you need to find something out?”, “Why do you usually use these sources?”, “What are two or three examples of what you usually learn from this source?”.“What are the drawbacks of using this source?”, Sometimes people go to a place for a particular reason such as to eat, get a haircut, to worship, for child care, get something repaired, make crafts, see a health provider or get exercise, but end up sharing information just because other people are there and you start talking. Does such a place come to mind for you? What is it?”, “What makes this a good place for obtaining information, either accidentally or on purpose?”, “What are some examples of information that you might pick up there?”, “For you personally, with regard to what's going on in your life, what kind of information would help you most right now?”<br />The authors did an effective job of presenting and breaking down each of the eight questions asked. They did this by using tables with the answers to the questions asked in the left-hand column with demographic information in the right-hand columns. They also did an adequate job of explaining the results of each of the answers in the narrative of each question. Notable findings of the research include that 39.9% of the respondents indicate they get their information from someone with whom they have a strong relationship, 39.4% use the internet to find their information, and then the percentages are substantially smaller with only 20.7% of the respondents using such sources as phone books, libraries, newspapers, radio, and other. This supports the authors’ belief that people search for information in the way that Harris and Dewdney (1994) explained in their sixth principle.<br />Strengths of this study include the participation of 612 respondents. This is a huge number for a telephone survey and would indicate wide-ranging responses to the questions. However, while a strength lies in the number of respondents, a weakness is that the ethnicity of the respondents are overwhelmingly Caucasian with only 11% of the respondents who answered the ethnicity question being in a minority. The authors explain this by giving demographics that show that most of the population of King County is Caucasian (78%), followed by Asian (11%), and African American (5%). Because the study was taking into account the information behaviors and information grounds of the residents of King County, maybe the non-diversity of the ethnicities of the study can’t truly be considered a weakness because it gave a somewhat accurate representation of the residents of this county.<br />Another strength that could also be considered a weakness is that the majority of the respondents reported having an annual salary of over $50,000. Additionally, 77% of the respondents reported having a college degree. These statistics are because King County is the home of Microsoft Corporation and several other major companies which require advanced education.<br />By reporting these strengths as weaknesses, this reviewer believes that while the research gleaned from this study is important in terms of King County, it cannot be used as a generalization. The respondent answers would be skewed towards upwardly mobile Caucasians, and would not be a correct generalization of the information behaviors and information grounds of most of the population of the United States, or even the world, for that matter. In order for the authors to have a more well-rounded study, they would need to go outside of King County and into other areas where there is more diversity in race, age, education level, and sex.<br />What this reviewer feels is a true weakness of this study is that there wasn’t a detailed conclusion from the findings of this paper other than the two sentence conclusion in the abstract of the paper, which didn’t offer much in terms of answers. This reviewer believes that this is because the purpose of the paper was not to definitively state answers to peoples’ information habits and information grounds but to explore those habits and grounds and describe the study that the authors conducted. Because there was no definitive answer, the study seems incomplete. This reviewer feels that the authors could have made more concrete conclusions about the information they gathered from the 612 respondents. Instead, the authors are going to do further analyzing of the data. This reviewer thinks that while further findings from the study would be interesting, it would still be limited in scope because of the specific portion of the population that was studied.<br />This reviewer found the information contained in the paper to be interesting. She was introduced to ideas and concepts that she had no previous knowledge of. Additionally, the information contained in this study, both as presented in this paper and whatever comes of further analysis, would be valuable information for the King County Library System as it would help policy makers understand how it is people find information. They could capitalize on the strengths where public libraries are seen as places for receiving information and work at improving the image as libraries as a source of other kinds of information by analyzing the places where public libraries did poorly.<br />

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