A review of Web information seeking research: considerations of method and foci of interest
KeywordsWeb information seeking research
Bibliography. Library science. Information resources
DOAJ:Library and Information Science
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Abstract<br><b>Introduction.</b> This review shows that Web information seeking research suffers from inconsistencies in method and a lack of homogeneity in research foci. Background. Qualitative and quantitative methods are needed to produce a comprehensive view of information seeking. Studies also recommend observation as one of the most fundamental ways of gaining direct knowledge of behaviour. User-centred research emphasises the importance of holistic approaches, which incorporate physical, cognitive, and affective elements. Problems. Comprehensive studies are limited; many approaches are problematic and a consistent methodological framework has not been developed. Research has often failed to ensure appropriate samples that ensure both quantitative validity and qualitative consistency. Typically, observation has been based on simulated rather than real information needs and most studies show little attempt to examine holistically different characteristics of users in the same research schema. Research also deals with various aspects of cognitive style and ability with variant definitions of expertise and different layers of user experience. Finally the effect of social and cultural elements has not been extensively investigated. <br><b>Conclusion.</b> The existing limitations in method and the plethora of different approaches allow little progress and fewer comparisons across studies. There is urgent need for establishing a theoretical framework on which future studies can be based so that information seeking behaviour can be more holistically understood, and results can be generalised.