Judgements during information seeking : policy and research workers' assessments of enough information

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This thesis examines how people determine they have enough information, a fundamental but perplexing question for human information behaviour researchers. Informed by theories of human judgement and decision making, the thesis investigates the ways in which judgements of enough information are made and the subtleties that shape this critical judgement. The empirical work that underpinned the thesis was an exploratory study conducted from an interpretive orientation and using the case study approach. The study examined multiple cases of judgements of enough information made while seeking and using information in the workplace. Semi-structured interviews (33) were conducted with public sector policy and research workers in Australia. Two interviews were carried out, the first with individual participants to explore the nature of the contexts in which they worked and the second, a paired interview with two participants to focus on how they assessed they had enough information. Interviews were taped and transcribed and inductive data analysis carried out. Principal findings included the importance of task in shaping judgements of enough information through an iterative and fluid process. Throughout the process the nature of what constituted enough information changed. Factors in the information use environment of the policy and research workers that shaped their judgements of enough information included the views of colleagues, supervisors and stakeholders, organisational decision making processes and organisational attitudes towards uncertainty. The collaborative information seeking and use of the policy and research workers resulted in collaborative judgements of enough information. The research makes three contributions to the field of human information behaviour research. Firstly findings provide new insights into judgements of enough information made by the policy and research workers, illuminating the judgement of enough information as a process and refining concepts critical to understanding judgements made while seeking and using information. Secondly the study provides a rich description of policy and research workers, a professional group not previously studied in relation to enough information, and their role in the public policy process. Thirdly concern about the limitations of behavioural decision theory to fully explain judgements of enough information led to consideration of naturalistic decision making, a recent development in decision theory. Naturalistic decision making affords a different perspective on human judgement and decision making. As a conceptual framework within which to develop more nuanced understandings of judgements and decision making during information seeking, naturalistic decision making has much to offer human information behaviour researchers.
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