Measuring electronic information services : the use of the information behaviour model

  • Grace Y. T. Cheng

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study focused on measuring the importance and contribution of information obtained from the library, particularly electronic information services (EIS),to success in solving clinical problems in hospitals. Three research questions with three main hypotheses were advanced and tested on clinicians in 44 hospitals in Hong Kong. The findings were tested against the framework from Wilson's (1996) existing general information behaviour model, from which a new extended model for clinicians was built. Measures of EIS were then derived from the new model. The research was broadly divided into a series of five studies in two stages: nominal group, quantitative survey, and interviews in the first stage, and randomized controlled study as well as the analyses of statistical data and computer transaction logs in the second stage. The key results in Stage I led to the studies in Stage 11. The randomized controlled study in Stage 11 attempted to reduce the barriers identified in the information environment, with a view to test the results of an educational intervention, and to confirm that the hypotheses were true given reduced barriers and the presence of enabling conditions. The effects of the interventions in this experimental study were validated and verified by statistical data and transaction logs. Corroborative evidence from the two-stage studies showed that the three main inter-connected hypotheses were supported: success in problem-solving is related to the information sources used; user satisfaction is related to success in problem-solving; and EIS use is an indicator of user satisfaction. EIS use is determined by a number of factors: the preference for EIS, the use of the library, the skills and knowledge in searching, the profession of the user and the characteristics of the work environment. Educational intervention was found to improve success in problem-solving, the attitudes, skills and knowledge in searching, the satisfaction with and use of EIS, and is an important enabling condition. The research rejected part of the first hypothesis posed that success in problem-solving is related to clinical question posed and suggests that further research is needed in this area. The study supported the extension of the general model to clinical information needs and behaviours and found new relationships. The study found an additional determinant of EIS satisfaction, the satisfaction with the information obtained. EIS satisfaction would not be changed by educational intervention alone if the information obtained was not satisfactory. On the other hand, education can improve EIS satisfaction regardless of whether the problem has been solved. Of critical importance is the time factor in determining the use (or non-use) of EIS. There is new evidence that the awareness of the user of an answer in literature is a determining factor for active searching. Borrowing the concept of opportunity cost from economic theory, the researcher relates it with the differing levels of self-efficacy and postulates a model for planning EIS and related library services. From the new extended model of information behaviour, sixteen main measures or indicators were tested on a proposed framework in developing performance measures to diagnose information behaviours and predict EIS use, satisfaction and success in problem-solving. In measuring EIS, the researcher suggested the holistic approach in assessing traditional (non-electronic) library and information services as part of information behaviours of clinicians. The study pointed to the imbalance between self-efficacy and the actual skills and knowledge of users in their searching mentality and activities and the implication for library practice. Qualitative aspects that require further research on measurement were suggested. The study has important ramifications for theory and practice for the information professional. The new extended model of information behaviour for clinicians establishes deterministic relationships that help explain why an information search is pursued actively, continuously, or not at all. Measures that have been derived from these relationships can help diagnose and predict information behaviours. The study highlights the flexibility and utility of the general model of information behaviour. Also, this is the first time that such a methodological approach has been adopted to derive EIS measures. The application of the randomized controlled study methodology in information science was proven to be feasible and yielded definitive results. The researcher proposes that further development of information behaviour model should incorporate the element of knowledge generation process in an organization.
Date of Award2002
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorPeter Clayton (Supervisor), Belle Alderman (Supervisor) & Peter Yuen (Supervisor)

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