Validating a model of the search process. The ‘information search process’ revisited: is the model still useful?.



Validating a model of the search process

Validating a model of the search process

Analysis of a Decade in Library Literature: College and Research Libraries, 68 2 , McKechnie, Pettigrew, and Joyce.

New Review of Information Behavior Research, , Scholarly Productivity of U. Library Quarterly, 70 2 , The ISP model, based on two decades of empirical research, identifies three realms of experience: Central to the ISP is the notion that uncertainty, both affective and cognitive, increases and decreases in the process of information seeking.

A principle of uncertainty for information seeking is proposed that states that information commonly increases uncertainty in the early stages of the search process.

Increased uncertainty indicates a zone of intervention for intermediaries and system designers. The six stage model of the ISP incorporates three realms of experience: The development of the ISP as a conceptual framework is the result of more than two decades of empirical research that began with a qualitative study of secondary school students and the emergence of an initial model, that was verified and refined through quantitative and longitudinal methods of diverse library users and further developed in case studies of people in the workplace.

As knowledge states shifted to clearer, more focused thoughts a corresponding shift was noted in feelings of increased confidence and certainty. Affective aspects, such as uncertainty and confusion can influence relevance judgments as much as cognitive aspects, such as personal knowledge and information content. Central in the model of the ISP is uncertainty described formally as a principle of uncertainty for information seeking. Increased uncertainty in the exploration stage of the ISP indicates a zone of intervention for intermediaries and system designers 3.

Thoughts that begin as uncertain, vague, and ambiguous become clearer, more focused, and specific as the search process progresses. Feelings of anxiety and doubt become more confident and certain. Through their actions, people seek information relevant to the general topic in the beginning stages of the search process and pertinent to the focused topic toward closure.

Formulation of a focus or a personal perspective of the topic is a pivotal point in the search process. At that point, feelings shift from uncertain to confident, thoughts change from vague to more clear and interest increases.

The model was verified in longitudinal case studies and large scale studies of diverse samples of library users 4 5. Further studies have examined the implementation of a process approach in education contexts and investigated the ISP in the workplace 6. The ISP describes common experiences in the process of information seeking for a complex task that has a discrete beginning and ending and that requires considerable construction and learning to be accomplished 7.

The model reveals a search process in which a person is seeking meaning in the course of seeking information. The ISP presents seeking information as a means to accomplish a goal. Initiation, when a person first becomes aware of a lack of knowledge or understanding and feelings of uncertainty and apprehension are common. Selection, when a general area, topic, or problem is identified and initial uncertainty often gives way to a brief sense of optimism and a readiness to begin the search.

Formulation, when a focused perspective is formed and uncertainty diminishes as confidence begins to increase. Collection, when information pertinent to the focused perspective is gathered and uncertainty subsides as interest and involvement deepens. Presentation, when the search is completed with a new understanding enabling the person to explain his or her learning to others or in someway put the learning to use. In the first stage, initiation, a person becomes aware of a gap in knowledge or a lack of understanding, where feelings of uncertainty and apprehension are common.

At this point,the task is merely to recognize a need for information. Thoughts center on contemplating the problem, comprehending the task, and relating the problem to prior experience and personal knowledge. Actions frequently involve discussing possible avenues of approach or topics to pursue.

In the second stage, selection, the task is to identify and select the general topic to be investigated and the approach to be pursued. Feelings of uncertainty often give way to optimism after the selection as been made and there is a readiness to begin the search. Thoughts center on weighing prospective topics against the criteria of task requirements, time allotted, personal interest, and information available.

The outcome of the possible choices is predicted, and the topic or approach judged to have the greatest potential for success is selected. Typical actions are to confer with others or to make a preliminary search of information available and then to skim and scan for an overview of alternative topics.

When, for whatever reason, selection is delayed or postponed, feelings of anxiety are likely to intensify until the choice is made. The third stage is Exploration characterized by feelings of confusion, uncertainty, and doubt which frequently increase during this time. The task is to investigate information on the general topic in order to extend personal understanding. Thoughts center on becoming oriented and sufficiently informed about the topic to form a focus or a personal point of view.

At this stage in the ISP, an inability to express precisely what information is needed can make communication between the user and the system awkward.

Actions involve locating information about the general topic, reading to become informed, and relating new information to what is already known. In this stage the information encountered rarely fits smoothly with previously-held constructs, and information from different sources frequently seems inconsistent and incompatible. People may find the situation quite discouraging and even threatening, causing a sense of personal inadequacy as well as frustration with the system.

Some actually may be inclined to abandon the search altogether at this stage. Exploration is considered the most difficult stage in the ISP when the information encountered can increase uncertainty prompting a dip in confidence.

The fourth stage in the ISP, Formulation, is the turning point of the ISP, when feelings of uncertainty diminish and confidence increases. The task is to form a focus from the information encountered. Thoughts involve identifying and selecting ideas in the information from which to form a focused perspective of the topic. A focus in the search process is comparable to a hypothesis in the process of construction.

The topic becomes more personalized at this stage if construction is taking place. While a focus may be formed in a sudden moment of insight, it is more likely to emerge gradually as constructs become clearer. During this time, a change in feelings is commonly noted, with indications of increased confidence and a sense of clarity. Task; What am I trying to accomplish? Time; How much time do I have?

Interest; What do I find personally interesting? Availability; What information is available to me? Collection is the fifth stage in the ISP when interaction between the user and the information system functions most effectively and efficiently. At this point, the task is to gather information related to the focused topic. Thoughts center on defining, extending, and supporting the focus. Actions involve selecting information relevant to the focused perspective of the topic and making detailed notes on that which pertains specifically to the focus.

General information on the topic is no longer relevant after formulation. The person, with a clearer sense of direction, can specify the need for pertinent, focused information to intermediaries and to systems, thereby facilitating a comprehensive search of available resources.

Feelings of confidence continue to increase as uncertainty subsides, with interest in the project deepening. In presentation, the sixth stage, feelings of relief are common with a sense of satisfaction if the search has gone well or disappointment if it has not.

The task is to complete the search and to prepare to present or otherwise use the findings. Thoughts concentrate on culminating the search with a personalized synthesis of the topic or problem.

Actions involve a summary search in which decreasing relevance and increasing redundancy are noted in the information encountered. Prior to the introduction of the ISP the affective dimension of information seeking had not been fully recognized in library and information services and systems. One of the important findings of this research was the discovery of a sharp increase in uncertainty and decrease in confidence after a search had been initiated.

Information seeking involves construction in which the person actively pursues understanding and seeks meaning from the information encountered over a period of time. The process is commonly experienced as a series of thoughts and feelings that shift from vague and anxious to clear and confident as the search progresses.

Kelly describes the emotional experience of constructing meaning from new information. The information is assimilated in a series of phases, beginning with confusion. Confusion increases as inconsistencies and incompatibilities are confronted between the information and the constructs the person already holds. As confusion mounts, it frequently causes doubt in the ability to assimilate the new information. The disruption caused by the new ideas may become so threatening that the new information is discarded and construction abandoned.

At this point, Kelly proposes another alternative to move the process of construction along. The person may form a tentative hypothesis to move toward incorporating the new construct into the existing system of personally held constructs. The ISP is a process of seeking meaning not just finding and reproducing information. This is a process of construction involving exploration and formulation that rarely proceeds directly from selection to collection.

Experience influences the decisions and choices a person makes throughout the process of information seeking. In more routine tasks, where the goal is to answer a simple question or to monitor periodic change, people do not usually experience stages in their information seeking. In more complex tasks, where the goal requires considerable construction and learning, people are likely to experience a process as described in the ISP model 6.

Focus formulation calls for reflective thinking about the information encountered in the exploration stage of the ISP that provides a direction for the completion of the search. A focus is a guiding idea to concentrate on to complete the search and accomplish the task. People often find the period preceding formulation of a focus the most difficult phase in the search process. Exploration is a difficult stage because uncertainty commonly increases, rather than gradually decreases, during this time.

Peoples can experience anxiety and frustration as they encounter information from many different perspectives, much of which may not be compatible with their specific constructs and personal knowledge.

The connection between feelings and formulating is evident from the rise in confidence that parallels increased clarity as formulation unfolds. Formulation, the central task in the ISP, is frequently misunderstood when the search process is thought of as merely a process of collection not a construction activity.

Exploration facilitates formulating a focus during the search process. However, people often attempt to move from selection directly to collection without the essential exploration for the formulation that gives direction to the search. Exploring uncovers information for formulating new constructs, whereas collecting gathers information for documenting established constructs. Tolerance for the mounting uncertainty in the exploration stage is important for formulation within the ISP.

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Validating a model of the search process

Analysis of a Decade in Library Literature: College and Research Libraries, 68 2 , McKechnie, Pettigrew, and Joyce. New Review of Information Behavior Research, , Scholarly Productivity of U. Library Quarterly, 70 2 , The ISP model, based on two decades of empirical research, identifies three realms of experience: Central to the ISP is the notion that uncertainty, both affective and cognitive, increases and decreases in the process of information seeking.

A principle of uncertainty for information seeking is proposed that states that information commonly increases uncertainty in the early stages of the search process.

Increased uncertainty indicates a zone of intervention for intermediaries and system designers. The six stage model of the ISP incorporates three realms of experience: The development of the ISP as a conceptual framework is the result of more than two decades of empirical research that began with a qualitative study of secondary school students and the emergence of an initial model, that was verified and refined through quantitative and longitudinal methods of diverse library users and further developed in case studies of people in the workplace.

As knowledge states shifted to clearer, more focused thoughts a corresponding shift was noted in feelings of increased confidence and certainty. Affective aspects, such as uncertainty and confusion can influence relevance judgments as much as cognitive aspects, such as personal knowledge and information content. Central in the model of the ISP is uncertainty described formally as a principle of uncertainty for information seeking.

Increased uncertainty in the exploration stage of the ISP indicates a zone of intervention for intermediaries and system designers 3. Thoughts that begin as uncertain, vague, and ambiguous become clearer, more focused, and specific as the search process progresses. Feelings of anxiety and doubt become more confident and certain. Through their actions, people seek information relevant to the general topic in the beginning stages of the search process and pertinent to the focused topic toward closure.

Formulation of a focus or a personal perspective of the topic is a pivotal point in the search process. At that point, feelings shift from uncertain to confident, thoughts change from vague to more clear and interest increases.

The model was verified in longitudinal case studies and large scale studies of diverse samples of library users 4 5. Further studies have examined the implementation of a process approach in education contexts and investigated the ISP in the workplace 6.

The ISP describes common experiences in the process of information seeking for a complex task that has a discrete beginning and ending and that requires considerable construction and learning to be accomplished 7.

The model reveals a search process in which a person is seeking meaning in the course of seeking information. The ISP presents seeking information as a means to accomplish a goal. Initiation, when a person first becomes aware of a lack of knowledge or understanding and feelings of uncertainty and apprehension are common. Selection, when a general area, topic, or problem is identified and initial uncertainty often gives way to a brief sense of optimism and a readiness to begin the search.

Formulation, when a focused perspective is formed and uncertainty diminishes as confidence begins to increase. Collection, when information pertinent to the focused perspective is gathered and uncertainty subsides as interest and involvement deepens. Presentation, when the search is completed with a new understanding enabling the person to explain his or her learning to others or in someway put the learning to use.

In the first stage, initiation, a person becomes aware of a gap in knowledge or a lack of understanding, where feelings of uncertainty and apprehension are common. At this point,the task is merely to recognize a need for information. Thoughts center on contemplating the problem, comprehending the task, and relating the problem to prior experience and personal knowledge. Actions frequently involve discussing possible avenues of approach or topics to pursue. In the second stage, selection, the task is to identify and select the general topic to be investigated and the approach to be pursued.

Feelings of uncertainty often give way to optimism after the selection as been made and there is a readiness to begin the search. Thoughts center on weighing prospective topics against the criteria of task requirements, time allotted, personal interest, and information available. The outcome of the possible choices is predicted, and the topic or approach judged to have the greatest potential for success is selected. Typical actions are to confer with others or to make a preliminary search of information available and then to skim and scan for an overview of alternative topics.

When, for whatever reason, selection is delayed or postponed, feelings of anxiety are likely to intensify until the choice is made. The third stage is Exploration characterized by feelings of confusion, uncertainty, and doubt which frequently increase during this time.

The task is to investigate information on the general topic in order to extend personal understanding. Thoughts center on becoming oriented and sufficiently informed about the topic to form a focus or a personal point of view. At this stage in the ISP, an inability to express precisely what information is needed can make communication between the user and the system awkward.

Actions involve locating information about the general topic, reading to become informed, and relating new information to what is already known. In this stage the information encountered rarely fits smoothly with previously-held constructs, and information from different sources frequently seems inconsistent and incompatible. People may find the situation quite discouraging and even threatening, causing a sense of personal inadequacy as well as frustration with the system.

Some actually may be inclined to abandon the search altogether at this stage. Exploration is considered the most difficult stage in the ISP when the information encountered can increase uncertainty prompting a dip in confidence. The fourth stage in the ISP, Formulation, is the turning point of the ISP, when feelings of uncertainty diminish and confidence increases.

The task is to form a focus from the information encountered. Thoughts involve identifying and selecting ideas in the information from which to form a focused perspective of the topic. A focus in the search process is comparable to a hypothesis in the process of construction. The topic becomes more personalized at this stage if construction is taking place. While a focus may be formed in a sudden moment of insight, it is more likely to emerge gradually as constructs become clearer.

During this time, a change in feelings is commonly noted, with indications of increased confidence and a sense of clarity.

Task; What am I trying to accomplish? Time; How much time do I have? Interest; What do I find personally interesting? Availability; What information is available to me? Collection is the fifth stage in the ISP when interaction between the user and the information system functions most effectively and efficiently.

At this point, the task is to gather information related to the focused topic. Thoughts center on defining, extending, and supporting the focus. Actions involve selecting information relevant to the focused perspective of the topic and making detailed notes on that which pertains specifically to the focus. General information on the topic is no longer relevant after formulation. The person, with a clearer sense of direction, can specify the need for pertinent, focused information to intermediaries and to systems, thereby facilitating a comprehensive search of available resources.

Feelings of confidence continue to increase as uncertainty subsides, with interest in the project deepening. In presentation, the sixth stage, feelings of relief are common with a sense of satisfaction if the search has gone well or disappointment if it has not.

The task is to complete the search and to prepare to present or otherwise use the findings. Thoughts concentrate on culminating the search with a personalized synthesis of the topic or problem. Actions involve a summary search in which decreasing relevance and increasing redundancy are noted in the information encountered.

Prior to the introduction of the ISP the affective dimension of information seeking had not been fully recognized in library and information services and systems. One of the important findings of this research was the discovery of a sharp increase in uncertainty and decrease in confidence after a search had been initiated.

Information seeking involves construction in which the person actively pursues understanding and seeks meaning from the information encountered over a period of time. The process is commonly experienced as a series of thoughts and feelings that shift from vague and anxious to clear and confident as the search progresses. Kelly describes the emotional experience of constructing meaning from new information. The information is assimilated in a series of phases, beginning with confusion.

Confusion increases as inconsistencies and incompatibilities are confronted between the information and the constructs the person already holds. As confusion mounts, it frequently causes doubt in the ability to assimilate the new information.

The disruption caused by the new ideas may become so threatening that the new information is discarded and construction abandoned. At this point, Kelly proposes another alternative to move the process of construction along.

The person may form a tentative hypothesis to move toward incorporating the new construct into the existing system of personally held constructs. The ISP is a process of seeking meaning not just finding and reproducing information. This is a process of construction involving exploration and formulation that rarely proceeds directly from selection to collection.

Experience influences the decisions and choices a person makes throughout the process of information seeking. In more routine tasks, where the goal is to answer a simple question or to monitor periodic change, people do not usually experience stages in their information seeking.

In more complex tasks, where the goal requires considerable construction and learning, people are likely to experience a process as described in the ISP model 6. Focus formulation calls for reflective thinking about the information encountered in the exploration stage of the ISP that provides a direction for the completion of the search.

A focus is a guiding idea to concentrate on to complete the search and accomplish the task. People often find the period preceding formulation of a focus the most difficult phase in the search process. Exploration is a difficult stage because uncertainty commonly increases, rather than gradually decreases, during this time. Peoples can experience anxiety and frustration as they encounter information from many different perspectives, much of which may not be compatible with their specific constructs and personal knowledge.

The connection between feelings and formulating is evident from the rise in confidence that parallels increased clarity as formulation unfolds. Formulation, the central task in the ISP, is frequently misunderstood when the search process is thought of as merely a process of collection not a construction activity. Exploration facilitates formulating a focus during the search process. However, people often attempt to move from selection directly to collection without the essential exploration for the formulation that gives direction to the search.

Exploring uncovers information for formulating new constructs, whereas collecting gathers information for documenting established constructs. Tolerance for the mounting uncertainty in the exploration stage is important for formulation within the ISP.

Validating a model of the search process

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4 Comments

  1. Examining perceptions of the science fair project: What is the task of the particular stage of the search process the student is experiencing? I would just sit there and say, "I'm stuck.

  2. The anticipated and assessed contribution of information types in references retrieved for preparing a research proposal.

  3. Average degree of disappointment, frustration, confusion, uncertainty and anxiety through the three writing tasks. Narrowing it down is hard.

  4. Inherent and crucial to a successful Guided Inquiry project is a holistic view of students' experience in the search process. As knowledge states shifted to clearer, more focused thoughts a corresponding shift was noted in feelings of increased confidence and certainty. Their thoughts center on contemplating the assignment and comprehending their task.

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