A nonlinear model of information seeking behaviour

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This paper offers a new, nonlinear model of information-seeking behavior, which contrasts with earlier stage models of information behavior and represents a potential cornerstone for a shift toward a new perspective for understanding user information behavior. The model is based on the findings of a study on interdisciplinary information-seeking behavior. The study followed a naturalistic inquiry approach using interviews of 45 academics. The interview results were inductively analyzed and an alternative framework for understanding information-seeking behavior was developed. This model illustrates three core processes and three levels of contextual interaction, each composed of several individual activities and attributes. These interact dynamically through time in a nonlinear manner. The behavioral patterns are analogous to an artist's palette, in which activities remain available throughout the course of information-seeking. In viewing the processes in this way, neither start nor finish points are fixed, and each process may be repeated or lead to any other until either the query or context determine that information-seeking can end. The interactivity and shifts described by the model show information-seeking to be nonlinear, dynamic, holistic, and flowing. The paper offers four main implications of the model as it applies to existing theory and models, requirements for future research, and the development of information literacy curricula. Central to these implications is the creation of a new nonlinear perspective from which user information-seeking can be interpreted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-237
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2004


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