A Descriptive Profile of Process in Serendipity
: A Narrative and Network Study of Information Behaviour in Context

  • Abigail McBirnie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research describes information behaviour in context: experiences of serendipity in research. The study contributes to the understanding of serendipity as a complex phenomenon by looking at process in serendipity through a relational, phenomenological and sociological lens. The research asks: what linked events of doing and happening do people recount when they talk about their experiences of serendipity? and, how do they make sense of the circumstances surrounding these events? The research investigates a sample of fty rst-person narratives of lived experiences of serendipity recounted in the Citation Classics online dataset. A mixed methods parallel conversion design operationalises the research: one strand of the study focuses on description of contextual data, the other, on descriptions of two di erent event structure models. To meet its descriptive aims, the research draws on multiple methods: narrative approaches, network analysis and statistical techniques, including network topology inference and motif detection. A descriptive pro le of process in serendipity, a portfolio, which collects the network drawings and data for the one hundred event structures modelled by the study, and a research credibility audit stand as the study's substantive outcomes. The research fi ndings make a four-fold contribution to serendipity theory: they provide new insight into experiences of process in serendipity; add concrete, precise detail to fuzzy, abstract processrelated serendipity constructs; highlight problems with existing theoretical assumptions; and present evidence for normality in serendipity. Methodologically, the research opens alternative avenues into serendipity's complexity and brings fresh perspectives to the practice of serendipity research
Date of Award23 Jan 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorChristine Urquhart (Supervisor) & Allen Foster (Supervisor)

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