Keeping up to date: An academic researcher's information journey

Sheila Pontis, Ann Blandford, E Greifeneder, H Attalla, D Neal
in Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, Journal article


© 2015 The Authors. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of ASIS&T.Keeping up to date with research developments is a central activity of academic researchers, but researchers face difficulties in managing the rapid growth of available scientific information. This study examined how researchers stay up to date, using the information journey model as a framework for analysis and investigating which dimensions influence information behaviors. We designed a 2-round study involving semistructured interviews and prototype testing with 61 researchers with 3 levels of seniority (PhD student to professor). Data were analyzed following a semistructured qualitative approach. Five key dimensions that influence information behaviors were identified: level of seniority, information sources, state of the project, level of familiarity, and how well defined the relevant community is. These dimensions are interrelated and their values determine the flow of the information journey. Across all levels of professional expertise, researchers used similar hard (formal) sources to access content, while soft (interpersonal) sources were used to filter information. An important "pain point" that future information tools should address is helping researchers filter information at the point of need.