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Desperately seeking information initial findings


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I recently conducted a survey of 55 business professionals to identify what channels they use to seek information. The pie chart below illustrates the role of the Internet (purples), internal search tools (oranges), the importance of direct people to people interactions (green) and minimal use of traditional ‘library’ services (blue). The fact that almost a quarter of all business information seeking appears to take place on the Internet should perhaps be of significance to corporate information literacy programmes and strategies.

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Desperately seeking information initial findings

  1. 1. Desperately seeking information… Results of a brief survey of business professionals Paul H. Cleverley September 2015
  2. 2. Background • There can be a tendency for some workplace IT/IM departments to assume that most information seeking takes place using technology and is internal (to the organization) in nature • How people believe they spend their time (self reporting) compared to how they actually spend their time can vary significantly
  3. 3. Scope • Single organization in the oil and gas industry (scientists, engineers and support staff) • Information seeking is restricted to “existing” information (i.e. not to generate new information and knowledge through an R&D project, interpretation or sensemaking) • This is an exploratory study
  4. 4. Research Questions • What are the ways in which people look for information in the workplace? • What are the proportions for the typical business professional? • How accurate is self reporting?
  5. 5. Method – Case Study Organization (Energy) • All data treated anonymously to individual and organization • Interview through purposeful sampling, a selection of business staff and thematically map methods to seek information (approach based on grounded theory). • Use a questionnaire to capture the proportion of (information seeking) time staff spend with each method (generated from the above data collection). Sample existing corporate library users. • Ask staff how often they use the corporate library and compare that with results from the search log data
  6. 6. Results – Information Seeking Channels Taxonomy • People (Peer to peer P2P) – Services (Library, Data Managers) – People (Face to face, live text chat, phone, Videocon, discussion boards) • Technology (Do-it-yourself DIY) – Internal Search & Browse • Corporate Library Search • Enterprise Search (Company Google) • Data Domain Portals • Browse Intranet wiki/web pages – External Search & Browse • Internet Search • Browse external websites • Subscriptions (reference bibliography)
  7. 7. Results n=55 Participant Country Asia North America Europe Africa There was no statistical difference in seeking method by geographical location or gender. Age was not tested as most staff fell within a narrow band (30-50) and it was deemed sensitive to gather this type of granular data. Gender Male Female
  8. 8. Results Results n=55 Internet: Purples Services: Blues Internal Tools: Oranges People: Greens
  9. 9. Results – Split by Job Role
  10. 10. Results – Usage Participants over-estimated the number of days they used the corporate library over the past 2 weeks by 46% Participants over-estimated the number of search queries they made over the past 2 weeks by 10%
  11. 11. Discussion • Staff seek information through people interactions, services, internal and external search tools • Information services rarely used. People in ‘Do-it-yourself’ DIY mode most of the time • Interpreters/analysts spend 40% of their time seeking information on the Internet • Staff may have a habit of overestimating time spent seeking using tools (perhaps underestimate time spent seeking directly with people)
  12. 12. Conclusions & areas for further research • Corporate ‘how to find information’ induction and training sessions should consider the full spectrum of information seeking devices (which method(s) may be best for which seeking task), not just focus on the corporate search engine • Further research is needed to see how satisfied staff are with each method (and the actual performance for the seeking task) and understand causal factors for differences.
  13. 13. Limitations • Small sample size, single organization. Results may not be transferable. • The staff who participated were all corporate library users, which could bias the information seeking method proportions.
  14. 14. Paul H. Cleverley