A Proposed Study: Information Seeking Behavior of Geologists when Searching for Physical Sample Materials


NOTE This poster was previously presented at the 2014 ALISE conference.  A longer version of this abstract can be found on the conference website on page 70.

In the field of geology, physical specimens such as cores, cuttings, fossils, and rocks are primary data; they represent “the foundation of basic and applied geoscience research and education, and underpin industry programs to discover and develop domestic natural resources” (National Research Council, 2002, p. 1). While previous information seeking behavior studies in the geological sciences have focused on the ways in which geologists search for publications (Bichteler & Ward, 1989; Joseph, 2001), my research instead concentrates on the ways in which geologists search for physical samples to answer their information seeking needs. In particular, I focus on how these processes differ for print as opposed to physical objects.

To document the user’s search process and to identify barriers encountered, I shall collect data at a core repository using qualitative methods such as interviews, observations, and content analysis. I intend to marshal my data to engage with and to extend Ellis’s information-seeking behavior model (Ellis, 1993; Ellis, Cox & Hall, 1993; and Ellis & Haugan, 1997). Specifically, I shall test Ellis’s model to assess how well his categories function in data searching; my work will suggest the need to extend Ellis’s model to include data creation.

First, my research will influence the design and development of cyberinfrastructure systems. These systems link users to physical information objects; they enumerate processes for data access and workflows for data preservation. Second, my work will underscore the need for the training of information professionals to prepare them for curation, preservation, and stewardship duties.



Bichteler, J., & Ward, D. (1989). Information-Seeking Behavior of Geoscientists. Special Libraries, 80(3), 169–78.

Ellis, D. (1993). Modeling the information-seeking patterns of academic researchers: A grounded theory approach. The Library Quarterly, 63(4), 469–486.

Ellis, D., & Haugan, M. (1997). Modeling the information seeking patterns of engineers and research scientists in an industrial environment. Journal of Documentation, 53(4), 384–403.

Ellis, D., Cox, D., & Hall, K. (1993). A comparison of the information seeking patterns of researchers in the physical and social sciences. Journal of documentation, 49(4), 356–369.

Joseph, L. E. (2001). Information-Seeking and Communication Behavior of Petroleum Geologists. Science & Technology Libraries, 21(3), 47. doi:10.1300/J122v21n03_04

National Research Council (U.S.). 2002, Geoscience Data and Collections—National Resources in Peril: Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, p.1-107.

Collaboration Area: 
Attachments for download: