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Information Seeking Behaviour (ISB)

1. Introduction: Information seeking is the process or activity of attempting to obtain information in both human and technological contexts. The information seeking behaviour essentially refers to the strategies and actions undertaken to locate discrete knowledge elements. It can be said that the behaviour which yields the highest information satisfaction is the best.

2. Definition: Information seeking behaviour refers to the way people search for and utilize information. In 2000, Wilson described information behaviour as the totality of human behaviour in relation to sources and channels of information, including both active and passive information-seeking, and information use.
In 1976, Feinman and his colleagues defined information-seeking behaviour as “specific actions performed by an individual that are specifically aimed at satisfying information needs”
According to James Krikela (1983) “information-seeking behavior begins when someone realizes the existence of an information need and ends when that need is believed to have been satisfied”. The seeker turns to formal and informal sources of information and is ultimately satisfied or dissatisfied with the result.

3. Models: A variety of theories of information behaviour - e.g. Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort, Brenda Dervin’s Sense Making, Elfreda Chatman's Life in the Round - seek to understand the processes that surround information seeking. The other model of ISB includes Ellis (1989), Leckie, Pettigrew and Sylvain (1996), Savolainen (1995), Johnson (1997) and Wilson (1999), Sonnenwald & Livonen (1999), Spink & Cole (2006) and Spink & Cole (2007). The following models can be used to describe the information seeking behaviour of the users.
a) Principle of Least Effort: Principle of least effort theory is developed by George Kingsley Zipf. He explains that information seekers prioritise the most convenient path to acceptable information.
b) Sense Masking: Sense Making theory is developed by Brenda Dervin in 1983. Sensemaking as a method through which people make sense of their worlds in their own language. Her description of Sensemaking consisted of the definition of how we interpret information to use for our own information related decisions.
c) Life in the Round: Life in the round theories is developed by Elfreda Chatman. She defines life in the round as a world of tolerated approximation. It acknowledges reality at its most routine, predictable enough that unless an initial problem should arise, there is no point in seeking information.
d) Information Search Process (ISP): ISP was proposed and developed by Carol Kuhlthau in 1991 and it is a 6-stage process, with each stage each encompassing 4 aspects;
i) Cognitive (thoughts) - what is to be accomplished
ii) Affective (feelings) - what the searcher was feeling
iii) Actions (physical) - what the searcher did
iv) Strategies (physical) - what the searcher was trying to achieve.
e) Episodic Model: The episodic model was developed by Nicholas J. Belkin. This model is based largely on intuition and insight and concentrates on interactions with information. There are 4 dimensions which characterise search behaviour. These dimensions can be combined in 16 different ways.
i) Method of interaction (scanning/searching)
ii) Goal of interaction (learning/selecting)
iii) Mode of retrieval (recognition/specification)
iv) Resource considered (information/meta-information)
f) Krikelas Model of ISB: James Krikelas (1983) was the first to develop an information seeking model derived from published Library and Information Science (LIS) literature about information needs and uncertainty. Krikelas suggests that a user perceives a need within the context of his/her environment. The individual recognizes an inadequacy in his/her knowledge which requires resolution in order to deal with a problem, thus leading the user on a search for information through various information sources. These could be human sources, information systems or any other information resources. The process may result in either success or failure; in the latter’s case the process can be repeated.
g) Wilson Model of ISB: Wilson’s model has its origins in 1981. The main aim of this attempt was not so much model building, but mainly describing interrelationships between concepts. This model identified 12 components involved in the information seeking process. Wilson determined that the satisfaction of an information need is proposed to be the driving force behind the action taken by a user. In order to satisfy a perceived information need, demands are made upon either formal or informal sources/services resulting in failure or success. Success leads to the utilization of the information, which results in fully or partially fulfilling the perceived need, should this not be the case, the search process is repeated.
Wilson gave another model in year 1981 which may be identified as Wilson’s second model of 1981. This diagram models the idea of the personal, social role, and environmental context that may give rise to a need for information.

4. Conclusion: Information seeking has generally been accepted as dynamic and non-linear. People experience the Information Search Process as interplay of thoughts, feelings and actions. Information seeking has been found to be linked to a variety of interpersonal communication behaviour beyond question-asking, to include strategies such as candidate answers.

How to Cite this Article?
APA Citation, 7th Ed.:  Barman, B. (2020). A comprehensive book on Library and Information Science. New Publications.
Chicago 16th Ed.:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. Guwahati: New Publications, 2020.
MLA Citation 8th Ed:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. New Publications, 2020.

Badan BarmanBadan Barman at present working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University, Guwahati-781014, Assam, India. He is the creator of the LIS Links ( - India’s most popular social networking website for Library and Information Science professionals. He also created the UGC NET Guide ( and LIS Study ( website.

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