Toward a description framework of information encountering experiences. Guidance for diarists in story telling

Pages807-827
Publication Date12 Feb 2020
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/JD-07-2019-0131
AuthorTingting Jiang,Shiting Fu,Enmei Song
subjectMatterLibrary & information science,Records management & preservation,Document management,Classification & cataloguing,Information behaviour & retrieval,Collection building & management,Scholarly communications/publishing,Information & knowledge management,Information management & governance,Information management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Toward a description framework
of information
encountering experiences
Guidance for diarists in story telling
Tingting Jiang
School of Information Management, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China and
Center for Studies of Information Resources, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China, and
Shiting Fu and Enmei Song
School of Information Management, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China
Abstract
Purpose One of the primary challenges of conducting information encountering (IE) research is the difficulty
in capturing peoples IE experiences.The purpose of this paper is to develop a general description framework of
IE experiences as guidance for participants to record diary entries in diary studies of IE.
Design/methodology/approach 340 descriptions of IE incidents were collected from 18 previous IE
studies as secondary data. A thematic analysis of the secondary data engendered a general description
framework of IE experiences composed of 9 main themes and 31 sub-themes. The framework was then applied
in a diary study to investigate Generation Zs online IE behavior.
Findings Thenine mainthemes ofthe framework,including environment,foreground activity,stimulus
noticed,reaction to stimulus,content examined,interaction with encountered information,value of
experience,pre-encounteringemotional state, and post-encountering emotional state, were used to create a
diaryquestionnaire for collecting IE incidents. The sub-themes were refined and organized into a coding scheme
for the content analysis of the incidents collected. The diary study collected 255 valid IE incidents which were
analyzed based on three phases, that is, pre-encountering, encountering, and post-encountering.
Originality/value The value of this study consists in its methodological contributions. First, it makes
creative use of secondary data accumulated in the literature and derives from the thematic analysis a general
framework which people follow to describe their IE experiences. Second, it demonstrates the great potential of
diaries for data collection in IE research through the successful application of the general description
framework of IE experiences in a diary study. Third, the diary questionnaire created based on the framework
provides sufficient guidance in eliciting complete and detailed IE incidents.
Keywords Thematic analysis, Diary study, Incidents, Secondary data, Description framework, Information
encountering (IE)
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
The field ofinformation encounteringis experiencing acceleratinggrowth (Erdelez et al., 2016).
Related topics have been investigated by library and information science (LIS) researchers
under a variety of terms, including information encountering,”“serendipity,”“accidental/
opportunistic discovery of information,and opportunistic acquisition of informationand
incidentalinformation acquisition,and so on. This paper adopts informationencountering
(IE) consistently in order to avoid possible confusion and considers it a common information
behavior thatoccurs not only in information seekingbut also in all kinds of online and offline
activities. In contrast to active and purposive information seeking, IE is another form of
informationacquisition, characterized by userslowinvolvement or no involvementin looking
Description
framework
guidance for
diarists
807
This research has been made possible through the financial support of the National Natural Science
Foundation of China under Grants No. 71774125 and No. 71921002.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
https://www.emerald.com/insight/0022-0418.htm
Received 2 July 2019
Revised 3 January 2020
Accepted 3 January 2020
Journal of Documentation
Vol. 76 No. 4, 2020
pp. 807-827
© Emerald Publishing Limited
0022-0418
DOI 10.1108/JD-07-2019-0131
for information that was acquired, and by a low expectation or no expectation that such
information will be acquired(Erdelez, 1995,p.3).
Existing IE studies in LIS can be categorized into three major streams. First, efforts have been
devoted to understanding the nature of IE and conceptualizing the phenomenon (Foster and
Ellis, 2014;Makri and Blandford, 2012b;Agarwal, 2015). Second, a series of theoretical models
have been established to describe the process of IE (Erdelez, 2000;Makri and Blandford, 2012a;
McCay-Peet and Toms, 2015;Jiang et al., 2015). Third, how various factors influencethe chance
of IE has been explore d from multiple dimensions (Heinstr
om, 2006;McCay-Peet et al., 2015;
McCay-Peet and Toms, 2015;Jiang et al., 2015). One of the primary challenges of conducting
IE studies is the difficulty in capturing peoples IE experiences (Erdelez et al., 2016). As stated
in Makri et al. (2015), former attempts to observe IE directly, especially in controlled
experiments, were of limited success. IE is inherently unexpected, so it is difficult to induce it
on demand or for research (Andr
eet al., 2009). Erdelez (2004) has called attention to such
methodological issues since the inception of the IE research. The urge for new methods
continues in recent years (Yadamsuren and Erdelez, 2016, pp. 5455).
Interviews have dominated IE studies because of their superiority in eliciting the details of
usersbehavior and mental activities. It was common for researchers to apply the critical
incident technique (CIT) in interviews in order to generate more accurate and in-depth
descriptions of IE experiences (Gremler, 2004). But the quality of the descriptions may be
affected by intervieweesabilities to retrieve distant events from memory (McCay-Peet and
Toms, 2017, p. 62). The past decade has witnessed the slow rise of diaries in IE studies.
Diaries ask participants to record the event of interest as soon as it happens, especially
appropriate for capturing easily changeable information (Alaszewski, 2006). The shortened
intervals can help reduce the risk of biased retrospection (Bolger et al., 2002). Diaries have
obvious advantages over interviews or observations for their access to taken-for-granted or
hard-to-reach phenomena (Alaszewski, 2006), showing greater potential to capture a breadth
of encounters. They can also help other methods overcome memory problems, e.g. used as
prompts for follow-up interviews (Makri et al., 2017). Nevertheless, IE researchers have made
much narrower use of diaries than interviews, as will be reviewed in the next section.
This study aims to promote the use of diaries in capturing IE experiences. The core idea is
to provide effective guidance for participants to record diary entries by introducing the CIT.
For this purpose, this study used 340 descriptions of IE incidents collected in 18 previous
IE studies as secondary data and performed a thematic analysis on these descriptions with
QSR NVivo 11, which resulted in a general description framework of IE experiences
composed of nine main themes and 31 sub-themes. The framework was then successfully
applied in an investigation of Generation Zs online IE behavior.
2. Literature review
As mentioned earlier, diaries have not been widely seen in the IE literature in spite of their
potential to facilitate elicitation of memorable events. IE researchers depended more heavily
on interviews involving the CIT which can also be achieved through diaries. This provides
interesting implications for the enhancement of diaries for data collection in IE studies, that is,
fully exploiting their potential by introducing the CIT. The following literature review will
begin with an overview of the CIT as well as CIT-based IE studies and proceed to diary
studies of IE.
2.1 Critical incident technique
The CIT emphasizes the collection and analysis of incidents that are critical. An incident refers
to any observable human activity that allows for inferences and predictions to be made about
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