Scholarly research and information practices: a domain analytic approach

2013-01-04T09:48:06Z (GMT) by Jenny Fry
This paper deals with information needs, seeking, searching, and uses within scholarly communities by introducing theory from the field of science and technology studies. In particular it contributes to the domain-analytic approach in information science by showing that Whitley s theory of mutual dependence and task uncertainty can be used as an explanatory framework in understanding similarity and difference in information practices across intellectual fields. Based on qualitative case studies of three specialist scholarly communities across the physical sciences, applied sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities, this paper extends Whitley s theory into the realm of information communication technologies. The paper adopts a holistic approach to information practices by recognising the interrelationship between the traditions of informal and formal scientific communication and how it shapes digital outcomes across intellectual fields. The findings show that communities inhabiting fields with a high degree of mutual dependence coupled with a low degree of task uncertainty are adept at coordinating and controlling channels of communication and will readily co-produce field-based digital information resources, whereas communities that inhabit fields characterised by the opposite cultural configuration, a low degree of mutual dependence coupled with a high degree of task uncertainty , are less successful in commanding control over channels of communication and are less concerned with co-producing field-based digital resources and integrating them into their epistemic and social structures. These findings have implications for the culturally sensitive development and provision of academic digital resources such as digital libraries and web-based subject portals.