Ellis: Information Gathering Behaviour

December 13, 2015

Ellis (1987, 1989) carried out a study in which he used semi-structured interviews for data collection and Glaser and Strauss’s grounded theory for data analysis. His research resulted in a pattern of information-seeking behavior among social scientists that included six generic features:

  • Starting: comprising those activities characteristic of the initial search for information such as identifying references that could serve as starting points of the research cycle. These references often include sources that have been used before as well as sources that are expected to provide relevant information. Asking colleagues or consulting literature reviews, online catalogs, and indexes and abstracts often initiate starting activities.
  • Chaining: following chains of citations or other forms of referential connection between materials or sources identified during “starting” activities. Chaining can be backward or forward. Backward chaining takes place when references from an initial source are followed. In the reverse direction, forward chaining identifies, and follows up on, other sources that refer to an original source.
  • Browsing: casually looking for information in areas of potential interest. It not only includes scanning of published journals and tables of contents but also of references and abstracts of printouts from retrospective literature searches.
  • Differentiating: using known differences (e.g., author and journal hierarchies or nature and quality of information) between sources as a way of filtering the amount of information obtained.
  • Monitoring: keeping abreast of developments in an area by regularly following particular sources (e.g., core journals, newspapers, conferences, magazines, books, and catalogs).
  • Extracting: activities associated with going through a particular source or sources and selectively identifying relevant material from those sources (e.g., sets of journals, series of monographs, collections of indexes, abstracts or bibliographies, and computer databases).

Lokman I. Meho & Helen R. Tibbo: Modeling the Information-Seeking Behavior of Social Scientists: Ellis’s Study Revisited (PDF)

 

In other words … (Ellis 1993?):

  1. Starting: identifying sources of interest.
  2. Chaining: following leads from an initial source.
  3. Browsing: scanning documents or sources for interesting information.
  4. Differentiating: assessing and organising sources.
  5. Monitoring: keeping up-to-date on an area of interest by tracking new developments in known sources such as journals.
  6. Extracting: identifying (and using) material of interest in sources.
  7. Verifying: checking the accuracy and reliability of information.
  8. Ending: concluding activities.
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