Information encountering: An exploration beyond information seeking

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Transfer


Michael Eisenberg


Information Systems, Library science

Subject Categories

Library and Information Science


This study was conducted to provide an initial understanding of information encountering, a form of information behavior that involves accidental acquisition of information. The study addressed the two broad research questions: (1) What are the characteristics of information encountering? and 2) How does information encountering relate to users' information behavior?

The study used exploratory research design and qualitative data collection and analysis methods. An open-ended survey was used to collect information encountering experiences from 132 respondents in an academic environment. The survey was followed by in-depth interviews with 12 respondents. Inductive data analysis involved the content analysis and faceted classification of study data to identify the characteristics of four dimensions of information encountering: user, environment, information, and problem.

The study found that respondents encountered information while performing both information and non-information related activities. There was a change in the types of feelings and thoughts experienced by respondents before and after information encountering. The respondents most often encountered information when in environments that specifically provide information services, but also in environments where information service was not the primary function. Information encountered by respondents included both interest and problem types of information, including present, past, and future problems, and also both active and passive problems. It was also identified that respondents encountered information across various functional problem areas and personal roles.

Regarding the relationship among information encountering and information behavior, the study suggested that information encountering was an integral element of browsing and information seeking activities performed by study respondents. Information encountering reinforced browsing by bringing satisfaction to respondents' browsing activities. In the context of information seeking, information encountering shifted respondents across time, parallel problems, and different subject areas.


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