Phases of information seeking

An information search can be described as a process (see image below) with different stages. During the process, you will consider and define the problem area, using many different information sources, information-seeking methods and library services. Though the image shows the information seeking stages as following upon each other, they will often occur side by side in practice, and they will be repeated even for one and the same information search.Information retrieval is a circular process. The steps are described chronologically in the text.

The following list gives more details about the different stages in the process:

  • Learning task / problem: the information need arises when you need to find information to complete a learning task or to solve a problem
  • Plan the search: define the information need, select the information sources, search methods and search words
  • Implement the search: execute the planned search (information retrieval methods)
  • Evaluate the search results: evaluate the result of the information retrieval (number of references and their accuracy). If necessary, change the information source, search method or search words.
  • Locate the publications: find out where the publications (e.g. an article) are located
  • Evaluate and use the information: evaluate the founded information (source criticism and research ethics) and use it to further the learning task or to solve the problem

With the deadline of the assignment for the course Challenges of Learning only three hours away, Raymond realised he needed some information. He determined that the need for information was urgent and selected the database Academic Search Complete as his source of information. Based on his experience, he decided to use “learning and sleep*” targeted at the title as his search phrase. The phrase yielded too many search results, so Raymond limited his search to the past few years. Using the speed reading skills he had recently acquired at a course, Raymond read through some of the articles that seemed most relevant for his topic. As an experienced self help writer, his refined style and well-developed writing speed allowed him to finish the assignment by the deadline. The need for information and the related urgency disappeared.