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Donald O. Case. Looking for information: a survey of research on information seeking, needs and behavior. San Diego: Academic Press., 2002. xxvi, 370 p. ISBN 0 12 150381-X $89.95

A welcome and ambitious book that should be received with open arms by schools of library and information studies and researchers looking for an analytical synthesis of research on information needs, seeking and behaviour.

The book opens by briefly examining the concepts, issues and research that are pertinent to the topic of information behaviour and that have been developing over the last decades. The introduction contains a series of descriptive examples that put the student in the research picture of information seeking, needs and uses. This first chapter is particularly useful in that its uncomplicated approach will put the student at ease while at the same time preparing the ground for a discussion of concepts, theories and methods related to information behaviour.

The introduction is followed by chapters grouped in four major themes that are explored in some detail. The first theme examines concepts relevant to information behaviour. Information is discussed as a central concept from several perspectives and an argument is built for a wide interpretation. Other concepts discussed include information needs and information seeking and models by Taylor, Belkin, Atkin and Dervin are compared. Concepts related to information seeking such as decision-making, browsing, relevance, information poverty and information overload are also explored.

The second theme goes into models, paradigms and theories used in the study of information behaviour. In chapter 6 Case highlights and compares the five best-known models of information seeking including Wilson's models and models by Krikelas, Johnson, and Leckie, Pettigrew and Silvain. The nature of theory is taken up in chapter 7 and related to the concepts of paradigms and perspectives. Apart from a deeper analysis of certain theoretical approaches (Sense-Making, uses and gratification, media use as social action, play theory) Case also provides a useful, if condensed, table connecting theorists, theory and relevant studies (7.1).

Methods for studying information behaviour are analysed in the chapters following and the theme is introduced by describing the connection between theory and methodology. Techniques, basic research considerations and ethics are briefly discussed. The main focus is on studies that illustrate how different types of methods are used and these are summarised in a helpful table (9.1).

In the final chapters research results are studied and considered. The theme is introduced with an overview in which the information behaviour literature is framed in terms of its size and development. Research results are grouped by occupational category, social role and demographic groups and an attempt has been made to exemplify in detail with recent studies in each category. Table 11.1 relates categories of studies (eg; scientists, journalists, scholars etc) with specific studies and also with other relevant works.

The reference list is extensive and the book also includes a useful index containing page references to concepts, theories, methods and authors. The style is clear and readable - an important point with reference to readers who are not native English speakers. Furthermore, each section is rounded off with a summary and an annotated list of recommended further reading. The book is, in other words, highly accessible.

With all that said, although the book is ambitious it is not exhaustive and some areas have been left out, notable examples are Limberg's research on the relation between information seeking and learning (see Limberg, 2000a, 2000b) and Birger Hjörland's theoretical discussion on the scope of information science and the domain analysis approach to information seeking (see, for example Hjörland, 2002). Studies on the information behaviour of children are not included categories of studies in the final chapters of the book. The book is also horrifically expensive, particularly from a student perspective, and one can expect that for those schools who include the book on their required reading lists photocopiers accessible to students will be working flat out.

On the whole, this well-written and perceptively analytical reference book cannot, in my opinion be overlooked, despite its price. It will be included in the required reading list of The Swedish School of Library and Information Science for the coming years. It is to be hoped that the publishers can find some means of reducing the price for bulk purchase.


  • Hjörland, Birger (2002) Domain analysis in information science: eleven approaches - traditional as well as innovative. Journal of Documentation, 58 (4) pp. 422-462.
  • Limberg, Louise (2000a). Is there a relationship between information seeking and learning outcomes? In C. Bruce & P. Candy (Eds.), Information literacy around the world: advances in programs and research (pp. 193-218). Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Stuart University.
  • Limberg, Louise (2000b). Phenomenography: a relational approach to research on information needs, seeking and use. The New Review of Information Behaviour Research, vol. 1, pp. 51-68

Frances Hultgren
The Swedish School of Library and Information Science
Högskolan i Borås

How to cite this review

Hultgren, Frances (2003) Review of: Case, Donald O. Looking for information: a survey of research on information seeking, needs and behavior. San Diego: Academic Press, 2002    Information Research, 8(3), review no. R095    [Available at: http://informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs095.html]