information behaviour

Organising information so that it can be found, understood and used is the central concern for the discipline of library and information science.

Information behaviour, information retrieval and information organisation, have often been referenced as the ‘holy trinity’ when attempts are made to define library and information science, with the caveat that bibliometrics is considered by some to be a valid contender too.

Information behaviour is traditionally associated with information seeking and narrower, system specific, information search techniques. Beyond information seeking, we can envisage a more general information behaviour (Wilson 2000), which itself can be sited within a still wider framework of information communication.

In terms of the information communication chain (Robinson 2009), information behaviour is usually placed over the components of ‘indexing/retrieval’ and ‘use’. A more contemporaty view is to consider that every part of the chain, (creation, dissemination, management, organisation, preservation, analysis and use), has an information behaviour aspect to it. This gives information behaviour a wider conceptual framework, so that studying information behaviour within any discipline can involve practices within any category of the chain. The linear diagrams often used to model information behaviour, can be augmented by cyclical models, where creation feeds into use, which subsequently feeds back into creation.

The phrase ‘human information behaviour’ is sometimes used as an alternative to ‘information behaviour’. Whilst on occasions these phrases are used interchangably, it is possible to acknowledge information behaviour of animals, or robots (algorithms), and so it may be helpful to suggest a distinction in meaning of the two phrases.

The questions of organisation and retrieval for early documentalists were brought to prominence by the exponential growth of scientific and technical information. As ICTs became move pervasive, there was a move to include business, legal and financial information within the remit of the information sciences. Finally, as computer processing prowess evolved to handle images, sound and video, information behaviour relating to arts and humanities began to appear in the specialist literature.

The subsequent, increased interest over the past decade in ‘serious-leisure’, alongside the rise in ubiquitous digital, and network technologies, has implied that we are all information specialists now, and promoted a focus on more varied and personal informational items such as photographs, fan works, and music.

New technologies have spawned new document forms, such as immersive and complex documents, which also demand considered from an information behaviour perspective.

The processes associated with creation, dissemination, management, indexing and preservation of documents, including those newer formats, may all be considered within the scope of ‘information behaviour’. Indeed, it is hard to say what is not part of information behaviour, when we consider interaction with documents.

Information behaviour is arguably part of every discipline, and much information behaviour related work can be found in subject specific literature, as against within the body of work belonging to library and information science. Often, this work is written from a completely different context, and is indexed in ways which do not reference LIS. Finding this literature requires careful understanding of individual disciplines. It is also salutary to consider how to communicate our core LIS concepts to disciplines such as cultural, media or performance studies, if we want our work to reach the intended audience, and to be read.

Information behaviour research informs the collection sciences. This stretches beyond STEM subjects, to include arts and humanities, and the social sciences. Even further, to promote organisation, storage, preservation and access to our collective and personal cultural and heritage documents, however diverse they may be.

My interest in the processes of information behaviour began in my early career in the biosciences, but has since broadened to include information behaviour in a variety of disciplines including: distance learning, technology, business, art, cult media, performance and fashion. I am particularly interested in behaviours associated with new types of document, including immersive VR and AR experiences and installations.

Here are some of my publications on information behaviour:

  • Price L and Robinson L (2016). “Being in a knowledge space”: information behaviour of cult media fan communities. Journal of Information Science. In press.
  • Tury S, Robinson L and Bawden D (2015). The Information Seeking Behaviour of Distance Learners: a Case Study of the University of London International Programmes, Journal of Academic Librarianship 41(3), 312-321.
  • Robson A and Robinson L (2015). The Information Seeking and Communication Model: a study of its practical application in healthcare. Journal of Documentation 71(5), (in press).
  • Dulaymi STH, and Robinson L (2015). The Individual and the Collective: factors affecting knowledge sharing in Saudi Arabian companies. Journal of Documentation 71(1), 198-209.
  • Robinson L (2015). Immersive information behavior; using the documents of the future. New Library World 116(3/4), 112-121.
  • Margree P, MacFarlane A, Price L and Robinson L (2014). Information behaviour of music record collectors. Information Research, 19(4), paper 652 [online], available at http://
  • Poirier E and Robinson L (2014). “Informational balance: Slow principles in the theory and practice of information behaviour. Journal of Documentation 70(4), 687-707.
  • Poirier E and Robinson L (2013). Slow Delphi: An investigation into information behaviour and the slow movement. Journal of Information Science 40(1), 88-96.
  • Bawden D and Robinson L (2013). No such thing as society? On the individuality of information behaviour. JASIST 64(12), 2587-2590.
  • Robson A and Robinson L (2013). Building on models of information behaviour: linking information seeking and communication. Journal of Documentation 69(2), 169-193.
  • Bawden D and Robinson L (2011). Individual differences in information-related behaviour: what do we know about information styles? In: New Directions in Information Behaviour. Eds. Spink A and Heinstrom J. Emerald Group Publishing.
  • Bawden D and Robinson L (2011). Digital literacy and the dark side of information: enlightening the paradox. In: Pursuing Digital Literacy in Compulsory Education. Eds. Stergioulas LH and Drenoyianni H. Peter Lang: Oxford.
  • Mason M and Robinson L (2010). The information-related behaviour of emerging artists and designers: inspiration and guidance for new practitioners. Journal of Documentation vol 67(1), 159-180.
  • Bawden D and Robinson L (2009). The dark side of information: overload, anxiety and other pathologies. Journal of Information Science vol 35, 180-191.

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