The project reported here was suggested as a result of reviewing the
literature on information-seeking behaviour for the 50th anniversary of
the Journal of Documentation (Wilson, 1994). In that
review the author drew attention to the fact that information science was
only one of the disciplines that dealt with the subject and he gave examples
of a number of fields that contained relevant work.
Wilson then suggested to the BLRDD that a more comprehensive review
of the literature in fields other than information science
could draw attention to useful models, theoretical concepts and research
instruments that might be employed in future work from an information science
Given the four-month time-frame for the Project, and with several hundred
papers and books constituting the initial basis for review, it is not possible
to provide a detailed account of the treatment of information-seeking behaviour
in all of the fields covered: that would require book-length treatment.
Thus, this report presents the review in terms of a model of the information-seeking
behaviour process evolved by Wilson (1981) and shows
how that model may be revised in the light of work in other fields.
The following fields have been explored in preparing this review: the
study of personality in psychology; the study of consumer behaviour; innovation
research; health communication studies; organizational decision-making;
and information requirements in information systems design. The depth to
which each was covered has depended upon the total time available for the
work, by how fruitful an area proved to be, and by the extent to which
the same ideas were found in the different disciplines. This is not, therefore,
a comprehensive review of the literature of these fields, but an integrated
review on the basis of what may contribute to information science.
Nor, it must be stressed, are these the only fields that could have
been included in the review. The field of mass media research includes
relevant research, as does communication studies in general. However, time
did not allow for coverage of these areas and, in any event, it became
evident to us as the review of the literature progressed, that the heart
of the subject lies in work in psychology and sociology and a great deal
of what is done consists, in essence, of applied psychological and sociological
In general, and for obvious reasons, the literature from the field of
information science itself is excluded from the review, although occasional
exception is made for research that adopts a model from one of the other
areas and to draw attention to some similarities between information science
approaches and those in other disciplines.