Situating CIS – The importance of Context in Collaborative Information Seeking

Newman, Kristine; Knight, Simon; Hansen, Preben and Elbeshausen, Stefanie (2015). Situating CIS – The importance of Context in Collaborative Information Seeking. In: Hansen, Preben; Shah, Chirag and Klas, Claus-Peter eds. Collaborative Information Seeking: Best practices, New Domains, New Thoughts. Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Springer International Publishing, pp. 37–54.




Collaborative Information Seeking (CIS) is common in many professional contexts. This chapter discusses CIS from four different perspectives – education, healthcare, science research and patent research. We first introduce the CIS context, focusing on Evans and Chi’s proposed model of social search. We highlight the ways contextual factors relate to the search process, in particular noting the role of communication in CIS processes. The four example professional contexts are discussed with reference to the ‘medium’ of collaboration, the ways CIS is conducted, the tools used and physical setting of CIS, and the ‘context’ of CIS, the purposes for which an instance of CIS occurs in that discipline. We suggest that these contextual factors can be aligned with, but are additional to, the existing Evans and Chi model of social search, and that their addition in a ‘pre- and post-model’ extension could provide a shared framework for researching contextual features of CIS. In highlighting commonalities and contrasts across the disciplinary contexts we suggest that a developed model, and further research, is needed to understand the relationship between motivations in these different disciplines and the evaluation of CIS episodes, and the role of processes, particularly communication, in those episodes. In order to evaluate CIS in different disciplines future research should focus on the between, and within discipline differences in the purposes of CIS. Characteristics of success in different disciplinary contexts may relate both to the consideration of the collaborative context, and the information need; developing deeper understanding of this point.

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