Book Review  Information Behaviour by Tom Wilson

Nowadays we are very familiar with information retrieval, interactive information retrieval, information risk and information management but information behaviour (not information behaviours – as Tom Wilson emphasizes in this book) is rarely discussed even though thanks to Luciano Floridi we have a good understanding of the philosophy of information.

There is now no excuse for not delving into information behaviour. This open access book by Tom Wilson is also a very accessible read, and what I found especially fascinating was his openness about the changes he has made in his view of information behaviour over the last thirty years or more. The book is a slim one but then so is Floridi’s masterful Information – A Very Short Introduction! The sections (rather than chapters) cover Information Behaviour, Modelling Behaviour, Information Behaviour: A General Model, Models and Theories, Researching Information Behaviour, Using Information Behaviour Research, and Conclusion, and then an excellent bibliography of over 230 citations. A feature of the book is the adroit use of diagrams to pull together some inevitably challenging concepts and directions of travel.

The coverage verges on encyclopedic. However, I would like to have seen a consideration of information foraging (now very much in vogue after a long period of quiescence) and a mention of the applicability of computational ethnography as a quantitative research methodology to complement the wide range of qualitative options.

The author defines the potential readership as the beginning researcher, perhaps preparing a Master’s degree thesis, or beginning to think about doctoral research. I beg to disagree. This should be essential reading for researchers and practitioners in information management and information retrieval because it sets out the underlying principles on which these disciplines are based.

In the Foreward Tom Wilson suggests that by the time you reach the end of the book he hopes that it will have achieved three things for you: first, you should understand what is meant by information behaviour; secondly, you should be more aware of the theory and models that guide our approach to research; and finally, you should have a sound understanding of the various research methods employed in information behaviour research and how to use them. As far as I am concerned all three boxes get a full five ticks, and it will cost you nothing to find out if you agree with my verdict

I should emphasis that this book is self-published, open access and work-in-progress. I’ve included this review as it complements the feature article from Tom and because he is keen to encourage readers to respond to what they with comments and suggestions. Download here.

About Martin White
Martin White

Martin is an information scientist and the author of Making Search Work and Enterprise Search. He has been involved with optimising search applications since the mid-1970s and has worked on search projects in both Europe and North America. Since 2002 he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield and is currently working on developing new approaches to search evaluation.

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