Information Behaviors in Higher Education Research Administration: Support for Collaborative Proposal Development Activities
Proposal development is a very complex process. While the existing river of instructional materials for proposal development runs wide, the body of empirical research regarding this topic is narrow, especially concerning information behaviors surrounding the process. This study responds to this need as an empirical examination of a user-based method for improving our understanding of proposal development information behaviors. A hybrid concept of problem/situation is adopted for the purpose of characterizing proposal development as a problem situated in time and space, with institutions of higher education (IHEs) faculty as the users or population of interest for this study. This study asserts that an awareness of the information behaviors among faculty - as tied to their situational positioning and cognitive movements through that situation - can be developed to inform the design, development and facilitation of collaborative activities surrounding proposal development. Data for this study were collected through in-depth interviews with twenty-seven (27) faculty members from eleven (11) departments at four (4) schools and colleges of a single research-intensive university. Data analysis led to the development of a new dynamic, iterative model of faculty cognitive behaviors during proposal development - the primary contribution of this study. Additionally, this study presents questions faculty members had and constraints they perceived in relation to their situational positioning during development of a proposal. Finally, this study discusses the applicability and potential benefits of user-based investigations to improve proposal development in higher education. The design and results of this study contribute to both information behaviors research and to discussions and investigations surrounding proposal development within the field of research administration.