“Taking a Drink from a Fire Hydrant”: How Do We Find Information? (Part 4 of 4)

Google Classic: Please Allow 30 Days for your Search Results (Original artist unknown) #Google

As you can see, the interpretations provided by Wilson’s First Model and the Leckie Model are different in several ways, despite the fact that they are both meant to serve as the step by step methods of how an individual searches for information. The first difference that is apparent is that the Leckie Model does not provide for any kind of search for information that is not driven by a logical, work-based need. It could not help me work through my search for information about my desires and ultimate plan, unlike the Wilson Model, which allowed for the fact that some searches of information may not be based on strictly formal sources, but may also use important non-formal sources for non-formal needs.

Another difference between the two models is that the Leckie Model includes a feedback loop during the information search, whereas the Wilson Model does not. This places the Leckie Model at a distinct advantage over the Wilson Model when it comes to accurately portraying the way a user searches for information. In the Wilson Model, if the appropriate information is not found, it would seem that the user is expected to give up on their task. However, most of the time, an information search is such that one either cannot give up (the need for the information is too great) or one does not wish to give up (curiosity is too great). In the Leckie Model, the user compares the outcome of the information gained from the information search, as well as several other factors, to their information need and can continue the search if they deem it necessary.

Fall down seven times, get up eight

Of course the two models also shared several similarities. Both models acknowledge that the choosing of sources is an important step in the information seeking process, and that the sources of information that are consulted will affect the outcome of the search. The Leckie Model goes into greater detail about the way in which outside factors can influence which sources are being chosen (demographic information such as race, age, gender, etc.), but it lacks the explicit equality given by the Wilson Model to informal and formal sources. Both models also made note, in different ways, of the fact that successful knowledge, once gained, does not stay with the user, but flows back into the larger system of information.

These models affected my interpretation of my information behavior by showing me a pattern where I had first thought there was only chaos. While searching for information, it can often feel like you are not following a process, like you are just jumping from node to node without a plan. It is comforting to see that even though I might not have been aware of it, I was following an information seeking pattern that would ultimately lead me to success. These models also revealed to me the truth that an information search does not happen in a vacuum. There are motivations, which may vary in kind from search to search, but which always affect the way in which the search is carried out. Wilson’s First Model showed me that informal sources of information are just as much a part of the information seeking process as formal. I would not have considered the way I consulted my mother and advisors for their opinion and knowledge to have been part of this process before, but now I see that these steps were just as important as consulting the ALA website.

Two young boys, seated with books, in the children's department of a Toronto public library, Toronto, Ontario / Deux jeunes garçons lisent dans la section pour les enfants d'une bibliothèque publique de Toronto (Ontario)

I found both of these models helpful in explaining my information behavior. While not every single step I followed fit into or was represented by these two models, I found that I had followed models like these closely enough to prove that there is some merit to their processes. By being aware of these models, perhaps in future my information behavior will not feel so random and be even more successful. In turn, I hope to be able to apply these models to helping others understand and mold their information behavior to ultimate effectiveness.

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Works Cited

Case, Donald Owen. “The Concept of Information.” Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior. London, U.K.: Academic, 2007. 39-67. Print.

Case, Donald Owen. “Information Needs and Information Seeking.” Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior. London, U.K.: Academic, 2007. 68-83. Print.

Case, Donald Owen. “Models of Information Behavior.” Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior. London, U.K.: Academic, 2007. 119-140. Print.

Published by rsjeffrey

Robin Jeffrey was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a psychologist and a librarian, giving her a love of literature and a consuming interest in the inner workings of people’s minds.

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