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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Professor Claire Warwick

Warwick, C., Rimmer, J., Blandford, A., Gow, J. & Buchanan, G. (2009). Cognitive economy and satisficing in information seeking: A longitudinal study of undergraduate information behavior. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 60(12): 2402-2415.

Author(s) from Durham


This article reports on a longitudinal study of information seeking by undergraduate information management students. It describes how they found and used information, and explores their motivation and decision making. We employed a use-in-context approach where students were observed conducting, and were interviewed about, information-seeking tasks carried out during their academic work. We found that participants were reluctant to engage with a complex range of information sources, preferring to use the Internet. The main driver for progress in information seeking was the immediate demands of their work (e.g., assignments). Students used their growing expertise to justify a conservative information strategy, retaining established strategies as far as possible and completing tasks with minimum information-seeking effort. The time cost of using library material limited the uptake of such resources. New methods for discovering and selecting information were adopted only when immediately relevant to the task at hand, and tasks were generally chosen or interpreted in ways that minimized the need to develop new strategies. Students were driven by the demands of the task to use different types of information resources, but remained reluctant to move beyond keyword searches, even when they proved ineffective. They also lacked confidence in evaluating the relative usefulness of resources. Whereas existing literature on satisficing has focused on stopping conditions, this work has highlighted a richer repertoire of satisficing behaviors.

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