Brenda Dervin, Ph.D.
	Chair, Department of Communication
	Ohio State University
	Columbus, Ohio 43220

Presented at:
	International Communication Association annual meeting,
	Dallas, May l983

c   Brenda Dervin, l983

Interested scholars may use with appropriate citation any of the methods
or approaches described herein.  The methods or ideas may not be used for
commercial gain without the express permission of the author. 



The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the
Sense-Making approach to research -- its assumptions, methods, and results
to date.  The intent is to provide this overview in a semi-outline form to
facilitate its speedy use by the reader.  No a ttempt is made in this
paper to fully document all studies done using the Sense-Making approach
to date of the extensive literature reviews on which development of the
approach has been based.  This extensive documentation is included in an
COMMUNICATING and in briefer form in a series of papers and reports
published to date.  (1)


The term "Sense-Making" is a label for a coherent set of concepts and
methods used in a now 8-year programmatic effort to study how people
construct sense of their worlds and, in particular, how they construct
information needs and uses for information in the process of sense-making. 
Since sense-making is central to all co mmunicating situations, (whether
they be intra-personal, interpersonal, mass, cross-cultural, societal, or
inter- national) the Sense-Making approach is seen as having wide

In the most general sense, sense-making (that which is the focus of study
in the Sense-Making approach) is defined as behavior, both internal (i.e.
cognitive) and external (i.e. procedural) which allows the individual to
construct and design his/her movem ent through time-space.  Sense-making
behavior, thus, is communicating behavior.  Information seeking and use is
central to sense-making (as it similarly is seen as central to all commun-
icating) but what is meant by these terms is radically different than what
is typically meant in the positivistic tradition.  (2)

The Sense-Making concepts and methods will be detailed below.  The purpose
of this section is to describe Sense-Making's philosophic and
espistemological roots.  What is most unusual about the Sense-Making
approach is that it can not be easily labelled in
 terms of its allegiance to one or another currently accepted research
thrust.  Rather, it stands between some traditional, frequently
illusionary and restraining polarities. 

If one thinks of the stereotypic model of so-called quantityative
empirical inquiry, one thinks in such terms as mechanistic, static,
neutral, absolutist, analytic, and, above all, positivistic.  If, on the
other hand, one thinks of the stereotypic model of so-called qualitative
inquiry, one thinks in such terms as humanistic, dynamic, relativistic,
contextually-bound, involved, constructti- vistic, holistic.  Sense-Making
research, however, rests of concepts and methods which are clearly
quantitative and analytic and yet can be described with all attributes
usually reserved only for qualitative inquiry. 

In terms of allegiance to existing work, Sense-Making owes its debt to the
writings of: 

	*  Researchers of conition who have focused with quantitative
	approaches on how people construct meaning, including portions of
	the work of Bruner and Paiget.  (3)

	*  Philosophers and others concerned witha the constraints of
	traditional science and alternatives, including among others 
	Bronowski, Kuhn, Habernas.  (4)

	*  Third world critical researchers, usually rooted in Critical
	Theory, who have found the concepts and methods of communication
	as developed in the logical positivistic model both unuseful and
	troublesome in their contexts, including among others Ascroft,
	Beltran, Rolings.  (5)

	*  The handful of communication theorists and researchers who
	have taken a situationak, constructivistic approach to studying 
	communication as behavior, noteably Carter and researchers whose
	work owes a debt to his core ideas about the human mandate to 
	construct ideas to bridge gaps as a means of dealing with ever-
	present discontinuities in reality.  Central to this view is the
	idea that communicating behavior is gap-bridging beharior.  (6)

	*  The handful of theorists focusing on psychological therapy who
	have also taken a situationak, constructivistic approach to
	understanding why a constructing species (i. e. humans) sometimes
	behave like a non-consturcting species.  Particularly important
	here have been Jackins and Robers.  (7)

Core conceptual premises

The Sense-Making approach rests on a set of core theoretic premises. 
These premises have been described in different ways in various of the
past works.  This listing below represents the most recent and most
detailed attempt to date. As a set, the premises present baseline
assumptions about the nature of reality, the human relationship to that
reality, the nature of information, human seeking of and use of
information, the nature of communicating, and the most useful ways to
research communicating behavior.  (8)

	*  Sense-Making starts at bedrock with an assumption that reality
	is neither complete nor constant but rather filled with
	fundamental and pervasive discontinuities or gaps. Resting
	heavily at this point on the work of Carter, Sense-Making assumes that 
	the discontinuity or gap condition is generalizeable both because all 
	things in reality are not connected and because things are constantly
	changing.  (9)

	*  A second bedrock assumption of Sense-Making is that information
 	is not a thing that exists independent of and external to human 
	beings  but rather is a product of human observing. 
	This is seen as applying equally to "direct" observations of
	reality as well as to observations of the observations made by others 
	(i.e. the stuff usually called "information".)  In both contexts, the 
	observations are never direct because the observing is mediated by
	human minds and those minds guide the selection of what to observe, how 
	to observe, and the interpretations of the products of the observing.

	*  Since it is assumed that all information producing is internally
	guided and since it is generally accepted that all human observing is
	constrained, Sense-Making further assumes that all information is
	subjective.  The term "constrained" is used purposely.  "Biased" is not 
	used because it assumes an external standard against which the 
	observings  can be judged.  "Limited" is not used because it assumes
	that the observing is trapped, unable to be responsive to changing 
	conditions and break out of old patterns of structures.  Clearly, if 
	observing were trapped in this way, there would be no invention.  
	And, certainly, those who try to differentiate humans from other
	species frequently include among the most telling human
	characteristics, the human capacities to invent, create, and respond
	flexibly to changing conditions.  The constraints on human observing
	are seen as four-fold. 

		1)  The limitations on human physiology.  As a species, we
		appear at this point in our collective history, at least to be 
		unable to make some observations of which other species are

		2)  The limitation of present time-space.  Since it is 
		assumed that we are all bound in time-space, what we can observe
		at a given momentis constrained by where we are.

		3)  The limitation of past time-space.  We come from
		different histories and our observations today rest, at least in
		part, on our pasts.  In one sense, our historical differences
		account for our great species variety and enable us, via
		communicating, to achieve fuller pictures of the "circle of
		reality"  enriched by wider spectrums of observations.  In a 
		second sense, our past-time space can rigidify (become frozen
		time-space) when, as much literature in psychotherapy suggests,
		our past experiences lead us to treat present time-space as 
		identical to the past.

		4) The limitation of future time-space.  We are going to
		different places and our observations today rest, at least in
		part on where we focus in the future.  In addition, the general
		discontinuity principle suggests that our observations today
		apply only to today and not to tomorrow.

	*  Given the assumptions above, the Sense-Making approach posits
	information seeking and use not as "Transmitting" activity, as has
	been traditionally assumed.  Rather, information seeking and use are
	posited as "constructing" activities -- as personal creating of
	sense.  It is assumed that all information is simply the sense made by
	individuals at specific moments in time-space.  So me "information"
	becomes agreed upon and is termed "fact" for a given time-frame at
	least.  Others are\ controversial and are called "opinion" or "delusion"
	depending on the socio-political context and/or the charity of the
	observer.  Sense-Making assumes that this constructing is what is 
	involved in information sharing interactions no matter what the
	context.  Information sharing is seen as the successive
	modifications of internal pictures of reality -- a series of 
	constructings and reconstructings.

*  Because the focus of Sense-Making is on constructings, research is
directed to look not solely or primarily at things that traditionally have
been defined as "communication."  These traditional approaches, have
focused primarily on the transmitting of so-called objective, external,
information from knowledgeable expertss (e.g. scholars, educators,
journalists) to those lesss knowledgeable (i.e. non-experts).  Because of
this, traditional approaches have focused not on constructing behavior but
rather on source-using (and, in most recent work, networking). 
Sense-Making, in contrast, focuses on how individuals use the observations
of others as well as their own observations to construct their pictures of
reality and use these pictures to gui de behavior. 

*  In the Sense-Making approach it is assumed that sense-making behavior
is responsive to and mandated by changing situational conditions. 
Traditional positivistic research has looked for constant, across
time-space patterns in human communication behav ior.  In doing so, the
research has focused almost entirely on behaviors rigidified (or
habitualized) in at least two senses.  In the first sense, the rigidities
are those imposed by external socio-economic-political structures.  Thus,
for example, many p opulation sub-groups do not use libraries or public
affairs media.  And, evidence shows, those wo run these institutions are
typically unaware of how their institutions do not address needs of these
sub-groups.  In this sense, then, the research has focus ed on behaviors
rigidified by external conditions.  In the second sense, traditional
positivistic research in searching for across time-space constancies in
behavior has searched for exactly the kinds of behaviors which are not
flexible and responsive to changing conditions, those most likely to be
frozen.  Such an approach has been able to observe the variety and
creativity with whi ch people universally respond to their ever-changing
life struggles.  Such an approach ignores the mandate of the human
condition -- to make sense in a discontinous, constantly changing universe
when complete sense is not available as "complete informatio n." 
Sense-Making, in contrast, assumes, first, that sense-making behaviors are
frequent given the mandate of the human condition to bridge gaps.  Second,
it assumes that these behaviors are responsive to changing situational

*  Directly deriveable from the preceding premise is the idea that
sense-making behavior can be predicted more successfully within the
framework of a model which focuses on changing situations as predictors
rather than such constant across time-space attr ibutes as so-called
personally characteristics or demography.  The model changes from the
traditionally accepted "if....then" form to a "then...then" form.  The
question becomes:  what situational conditions will relate to what
sense-making behaviors?  Prediction is still seen as a relevant concern
but the prediction moves from attempts to isolate consistent patterns of
individual behavior that repeat themselves across time-space to the search
for patterns of
 human sense-making responsive to changing situations. 

*  Also related to the above is the idea that what is being predicted is
not how people are moved by messages but rather how people move to make
sense of messages.  Thus, Sense-Making searches for patterns in how people
construct sense rather than for mec hanistic input-output relationships. 
Sense-Making observes rather than assumes connections between situations
and information needs, between information exposed to and uses. 

*  Sense-Making assumes that all people live in time and space (although
the meanings ascribed to these are assumed to differ).  Because of this,
Sense-Making assumes that there are universals of sense-making that will
allow more successful prediction and
 ecplanation than has been possible in the traditional positivistic
approach.  Drawing heavily on Carter, Sense-Making assumes that the key to
identifying these universals lies in focusing on the human mandate to move
through time-space.  This then draws attention to the ways in which
movement can be stopped (as a perspective fro looking at situational
conditions), the kinds of gaps humans need to brdige in order to keep
moving (as a perspective for looking at sense-making or information
needs), and the d ifferent weays in which people assess success in
gap-bridging (as a perspective for looking at information use or effects
of information-sharing and communicating).  It should be noted that while
the last sentence uses the term "effects", the effects refe rred to are
not observer imposed but mover-created. 

*  As suggested above, the Sense-Making approach assumes that sense-making
behavior is situationally and contextually bound and rooted in present,
past, and future time-space.  Sense-Making attempts to address issues
raised by many Critical Theorists.  Se nse-Making assumes, for one, that
studying communicating behaviors in the context of current communication
systems leads to distorted views of communication potential because most
of our institutions are rigidified inventions, being at best suitable to p
ast situational conditions.  Most communication structures are more
related to the age of the guillotine (when information sharing was low,
homogeneity assumed right, communicating potential constrained, and
authority assumed expert) rather than the age o f technology (with high
information sharing, assumed heterogeneity, relatively open communicating,
and the continued erosion of "expertise").  In the age of the guillotine,
procedures for communicating were relatively unimportant because the
notion of "ci rcling reality" was deemed neither necessary nor desirable. 
The concept of "circling reality" is used in Sense-Making as a convenient
way of referring to the necessity of obtaining a variety of perspectives
in order to get a better, more stable view of " reality" based on a wide
spectrum of observations from a wide base of points in time-space. 

*  Sense-Making assumes that effective "circling of reality" is not only
desirable (i.e. valued) but necessary given the considerable body of
evidence showing what happens to systems unable to assess and respond
flexibly to changing reality.  Since curren t systems and research on them
assume essentially an expertise transmission system, little research has
led to the systematic development and testing of alternative communicating
structures and procedures -- i.e. means for effectively sharing and using
in formation.  The idea of a truly responsive information system designed
to serve user needs is actualized primarily at the expense of individual
professional burn-out.  Information systems (whether mandated to collect,
store, retrieve, or disseminate infor mation) all rest on
expertise-transmission assumptions and, thus, are not supported by
institutionalized structures and procedures for what Sense-Making calls
information sharing and use -- i.e. the successive constructings and
reconstructings of sense.  While much is said about the need for
"bottom-up" communication system designs, little is known systematically
about their implementation. 

*  Sense-Making assumes that useful communication research needs to inform
the practice of communicating and that this requires that the researcher
involve him/herself actively in communication invention.  In beginning to
systematically develop alternativ e structures and procedures, it is
assumed that at least three research thrusts are needed.  One, as
suggested by Critical Theory, lies in understanding how current systems
constrain communicating.  A second, lies in understanding how individuals
construc t sense both inside and outside of structural constraints.  A
third lies in inventing communicating alternatives and assessing gheir
utility.  Sense-Making research has focused on the latter two thrusts and
is enriched by the first. 

*  The Sense-Making approach acknowledges the utility of observer
assessments of situational conditions and the idea from Critical Theory
that there are structural constraints which limit sense-making and
communicating which are out of consciousness to ma ny people. 
Sense-Making assumes, however, that there is utility in starting with the
person and finding systematic ways of having individuals share their
observations about all manner of situations, including those they see as
structurally constrained.  It is further assumed that one reason why
research focusing on individual behavior rather than structures has been
so unfruitful in the past has been that it has searched for acros time
space constancies.  Based on this, it is assumed that research focusi ng
on situational contingencies is theoretically consistent with a concern
for structures and expected to yield results useful in improving and
altering structures. 

*  Given this last assumption, the Sense-Making approach makes a firm
distinction between observer and actor views of reality suggesting that in
the studying sense-making the researcher must adhere consistently to
actor-perspectives.  This is not meant to
 limit potential.  The perspectives of various actors moving in given
structural condition could be compared, for example, thus illuminating the
portrait of sense-making in that particular condition.  What is important
here, however, is that the researche r not set the boundaries of the
situation in terms of any particular observor's defi nition. 

Current Sense-Making model  

The Sense-Making approach, when implemented in both research designs and
applications at this point in time, rests on the following model: 


Figure 1

Current model used in Sense-Making studies.



Sense-Making studies and applications, thus, have all incorporated two or
more of the following: 

	SITUATIONS:  The time-space contexts at which sense is constructed.

	GAPS:  The gaps seen as needing bridging, translated in most studies
	as "information needs" or the questions people have as construct sense
	and move through time-space.

	USES:  The uses to which the individual puts newly created sense, 
	translated in most studies as information helps and hurts.

The SITUATIONS-GAPS-USES model is derived directly from conceptual
premises stated above. 

	SITUATIONS are included because it is posited that sense-making is

	GAPS are included because they are assumed to be what sense-making 
	is all about.

	USES are included because Sense-Making focuses  on constructing and
	does not assume a mechanistic connection between information and 

Each of the three dimensions labelled above identifies a category of
variables.  The specific conceptual and operational definitions of typical
measures in each category will be described in a later section below and
are listed in Appendix B. 

Further elaborations have been developed for each of the three dimensions
but in all studies the above has formed the core focus.  The model has
also been extended to practice situations as well.  The use of "three"
dimensions has been seen as particularl y appropriate both in the realm of
practice as well as research because it involves "triangulating"
subjectivity.  The idea here is that since different people create sense
differently, when one attempts to understand the sense made by another, it
is usef ul to assess three points as a minimal basis for co-orienting. 

Further, the Sense-Making model assumes that the three-points specified in
the Sense-Making model are examples of the kind of "universals" specified
in the conceptual premises.  Thus, it is stated as assumption that people
who are sense-making have gaps i n situations and assess the value of
information, regardless of how constructed, in terms of the uses to which
they can put it. 

Methods of data collection    

A major portion of the effort in developing the Sense-Making approach to
date has been directed to the invention of alternative means for
interviewing respondents.  A variety of techniques have been developed . 
They can be summarized as four techniques w ith variations. 

	Micro-Moment Time-Line Interview 

	This is the core technique of the Sense-Making approach.  It
involves asking a respondent to detail what happened in a situation
step-by-step in terms of what happened first, second, and so on.  Then,
for each step (called a Time-Line step), the respondent is asked what
questions he or she had, what things he/she needed to find out, learn,
come to under- stand, unconfuse, or make sense of.  Thesetwo elements form
the core of the Time-Line.  In-depth analyses are then of each question
asked as mandated by study purposes. 

Micro-Moment Time-Line Interviews have been applied in a wide variety of
contexts.  Examples included in Appendis A are: 

EXAMPLE  #1:	a cancer patient on a chemotherapy
			treatment situation
EXAMPLE  #2:	a blood donor on most recent donation
EXAMPLE  #3:	an undergraduate on a recent interpersonal
EXAMPLE  #4:	a college student on a recent college class
EXAMPLE  #5:	a development disables=d adult on a recent
			difficult situation
EXAMPLE  #6:	a 5-year-old girl and a l0-year-old boy on 
			their best remembered or most important 
			recent watching of a TV show
EXAMPLE  #7:	a minority college student on a recent 
			difficult situation at college
EXAMPLE  #8:	a college student on a recent paper writing
EXAMPLE  #9:	an l8-year resident of the State of California
			on a recent troublesome situation
EXAMPLE  #10:	4 southeast Asian refugees living in Seattle 
			on recent visits to hospitals and clinics
EXAMPLE  #11:	a college freshman on describing a recent
			media day

Each application of the Micro-Moment Time-Line Interview involves its own
adjustments.  What all have in common is an attempt to secure from the
respondent a description of at least two dimensions of the three-part
SITUATIONS-GAPS-USES model and to do so in such a way that the data for
each dimension is tied to a micro-moment, a specific situational moment in
the time-space. 

To illustrate this, a description of the structure of the most detailed 
use of the technique will help.  For the l982 study of cancer patients (Dervin, Nilan, Kranz, and Wittet  l982), each patient was instructed as follows:

1.  To select a situation during their chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

2.  To describe what happened first in that situation and to list the
questions he/she had at that step.  To then describe what happened second
and list questions for that step.  To continue this process through all
Time-Line steps.  In this process, the interviewer recorded Time-Line
steps on blue file cards and the accompanying questions on white file
cards, one per card. 

3.  To then collect and shuffle the question cards if 9 or more questions
resulted and to select eight randomly for indepth analysis. 

4.  To then describe each of the up to eight questions on the following
dimensions (abbreviated below, see EXAMPLE #1 in Appendix A for full
Situation measures  
a)  What were you trying to do when you asked this question?
b)  Did you see yourself as blocked or hindered when you
      asked this question?  How?
c)  Is there anything else you can tell us that explains why
      you asked this question.

Gaps measures
d)  Did this question stand alone or was it related to other
      questions?  How?
e)  How many other people in similar situations would ask?
f)  How easy did it seem to get an answer?  Why?
g)  Did the ease change?  How?  Why?
h)  How important was getting an answer?
i )  Did the importance ever change?  How?  Why?
j )  Did you ask the question out loud?  If no, why not?
k)  Did you get an answer?  When?
l )  Was the answer complete or partial?  Why?
m)  How did you get an answer?

Uses measures
n)  Did you expect the answer to help?  If got answer:  did it
      help in ways expected or other ways?
o)  Did you expect the answer to hurt?  If got answer:  did it
      hurt in ways expected or other ways?

For this application, then, each of eight questions was analyzed in
extensive detail.  In other studies (EXAMPLES #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) all
questions (no matter how many) were analyzed in detail. 

Variations on the detailed Micro-Moment Time-Line Interview format
described above are shown in other examples: 

* EXAMPLE #9:  In this application, the core Time-Line consisting of steps
and questions was elicited but detailed analyses of questions were done
only on the "most important" question.  This allowed a briefer phone
interview to be done. 

* EXAMPLE #l0:  In this application, the interviews ellicited general
situation descriptions and then questions respondents had in those
situations.  Interviewers then probed to get Micro- Moment descriptions of
the specific situations which led to each question being asked. 

* EXAMPLE #11:  In this application, respondents were asked to focus in on
specific times during a "media day" and describe their situations at that
time and their media use at that time. 

Helps/Hurts Chaining

The primary way in which uses has been operationalized in Sense-Making
research has been in terms of how respondents have seen information as
helping (facilitating) or hurting (blocking).  In the early stages, it was
simplistically assumed that one of two
 questions to the respondent would elicit their helps/hurts and show how
they constructed the connection between the message and its use for them. 
The data, however, had its own inductive force and, as a result, two
alternative techniques have been devel oped both of which involve chaining
helps or hurts.  Briefly, what this means is asking the respondent to show
how each successive help related to yet another help.  If a respondent
says, for example, that a TV show lped him relax, the interviewer asks "A
nd, how did that help?"  Respondents are instructed to end the chaining at
any time where they think it ends.  The two versions of chaining include: 

*Straight Lime Chaining:  Here, the interviewer asks the respondent "And,
how did that help?" for each successive help and "And, how did that hurt?"
for each successive hurt.  An example of this is included as EXAMPLE #12
in Appendiz A. 

*Complex Chaining:  Here, the respondent is told that information (or an
event) may lead to both helps and/or hurts and that any given help or 
hurt may lead in turn to both helps and/orhurts.  An example of this is 
included as EXAMPLE #13 in Appendix B.

Of the two methods, respondent and interviewer reports suggest that #l3 is
more valid but that #12 has its utility particularly in situations where
interviewing brevity is required and where information uses are more
straightforward.  Specific study of th ese issues is on the Sense-Making
research agenda. 

Close-ended Sense-Making Interview 

After eight years of entirely open-ended research, it was decided that
enough inductive work had been done to develop a close-ended approach to
data collection specifically for hypothesis testing situations.  In usisng
this close-ended instrument, respond ents are first asked to anchor
themselves in terms of a real-life situation.  This can be either a
Micro-Moment or a Total Situation.  The former, of course, is preferred in
the context of Sense-Making premises.  In one variation, a total Time-Line
is eli cited and then respondents are asked to focus on only the "most
important" step.  Or, in another variation, a set of parameters for
choosing a situation are given to the respondent (for example, chose a
recent situation in which you saw yourself as facing
 a barrier, being of higher status than others, and having open
communication available to you). 

After focusing on a real-life situation, respondents are usually asked to
describe the situation briefly and give their reasons for selecting it to
meet the criteria.  This step allows checks to be made of whether
respondents used criteria in the same way
 as the researchers. 

At this point, respondents are asked to rate on scales from 1 to 7 the
extent to which they saw themselves in the designated situation as seeing
the situation in specific ways, having specific questions, and wanting
specific helps.  The close-ended items for situation perceptions
questions-helps are all derived from the many content analyses done on
other data bases.  An example of a Close-Ended Sense-Making Interview is
included as EXAMPLE #l4 in Appendix A. 

Message Q/ing Interview

For this technique, the Sense-Making approach is combined with Carter's
stopping technique (Carter, Ruggels, Jackson, and Heffner l983) in order
to tap sense-making during printed message reading.  In the use of this
technique, respondents are asked to re ad a message and stop everywhere
they have a question (i.e. something they want to learn, understand, make
sense of, unconfuse, or find out).  The point of their stop is indicated
in the text with a / as is standard in Carter's stopping.  Then, an
in-dept h analysis is conducted of each question asked.  Typical
dimensions have included assessments of the questions connection to the
respondent's life situations, rating of question importance, judgements of
whether the question is ever answered in the messag e, judgements of the
completeness of the answer, and reports of expected and actual helps and
hurts from answers.  An example of Message Q/ing is included as EXAMPLE
#l5 in Appendix A. 

Regardless of the specific data collecting technique uses, all
Sense_Making data collection approaches share some features in common. 

*  LONGER THAN AVERAGE INTERVIEW TIMES.  Micro-Moment Time Line interviews
typically average 60 minutes, in on study averaged 120.  Even phone
interviews, usually thought to have a maximum range of l5 minutes have
successfully lasted an average of 25. 

example, in unusually high interest among respondents in obtaining study
results.  In the cancer patient study, for example, 90% of respondents
requested results.  This is also indicated in the many spontaneous as well
as solicited responses from respondents on the value of the kind of
self-analysis the Sense-Making inte rviewing techniques require. 
Favorable responses have been obtained even for close-ended approaches. 
Sample comments are included in Appendix C. 

*  HIGH INTERVIEWER INTEREST.  With few exceptions, interviewers report
high interest and lack of interviewing boredom.  In addition, they almost
universally report that doing the interviews helped them appreciate people
better and gave them new communic ating skills. Examples of these comments
are also included in Appendix C. 

that it is appropriate in the interviewing context to explicitly provide
respondents with an anchor or a context within which they are responding. 
For Sense-Making, this context is
 typified by the Time-Line a series of questions which include the content
of the assumptions made by Sense-Making (i.e. that we are mandated to make
sense in time-space, that we get stopped in situations, that we have
different uses for information) but
 as little other content as possible. 

*  HIGH USE OF RESPONDENT TRAINING.  In line with the above, Sense-Making
also aassumes that it is appropriate to train respondents in the use of
the interviewing structure so that respondent and researcher are
co-orienting in the same frame.  In order to
 safequard against too strict an imposition of structure, Sense-Making
studies frequently repeat the admonition that respondents should answer to
represent their situations and their thinking.  Since the researcher's
questions addressed to the respondent are virtually content-free (except
as noted above), the respondent is free to fill-in to represent his/her
situation and thinking.  One variation of the high respondent training is
the frequent use made in Sense-Making studies, particularly with college s
tudent respondents, of self-interviews. 

Sense-Making variables

	As noted above, the Sense-Making model focues on three classes of
measures:  SITUATIONS-GAPS-USES.  The primary concern in constructing
measures in each class to date has beena to identify dimensions of
sense-making that are useful and valid ans as content-free (in the sense
suggested above) as possible.  The focus has varied in each of the three

SITUATIONS.  The concern in this class has been to identify the 
different ways in which respondents see situations that predict 
information seeking (i.e. question asking, gap seeing) and information 
uses (i.e. helps/hurts).  OVERVIEW #l in Appendix B
lists all the different situational measures used to date.  These include:
* Situation Movement State
* Situation Clarity
* Situation Embeddedness
* Social Embeddedness
* Situation Importance
* Past Experience
* Ability to Deal with Situation
* Openness to Communication in Situation
* Status in Situation
* Distance into Situatio

Appendix B includes definitions of each.  Of these measures, the one most
central to Sense-Making approaches to date has been Situation Movement
State--a measure that taps the different qualitative ways in which the
respondent sees his/her movement throug h time-space blocked. 
Sense-Making assumes that it is movement blocks that give rise to
question-asking (i.e. information seeking).  The different Situation
Movement States are all seen as different ways of being stopped in
movement through time-space.  For example, being stopped at a decision
point means having two or more roads ahead and needing to reduce them to
one.  Or, being stopped a problematic point means seeing self as being
dragged down a road not of one's own choosing.  Or, being stopped at a
 barrier is knowing where you want to go but having someone or something
standing in the way.  Appendix B includes definitions of each of the
Situation Movement States. 

Most situation variables in Sense-Making have been measured using
close-ended scales, even in the contest of the highly open-ended Time-Line
Interview.  The one exception to this is Situation Movement State which
has been measured primarily using standard
 content analytic procedures.  Here, coders take the respondents verbal
answers to such questions as (What happened?  What led up to your asking
this question?  What blocked or hindered you?" and translate them into one
of the theoretically defined Situat ion Movement States. 

A second way in which Situation Movement State has been measured is with a
series of close-ended scales.  Here, respondents are asked to assess the
extent to which their situation fits each of the movement state pictures. 

A final way in which Situation Movement State has been meaasured has been
to train respondents in the definitions of each of the States and have
them essentially do their own coding.  Further investigation of this
approach is high on the Sense-Making rese arch agenda. 

GAPS.  For this class of measures, there have been two main thrusts of
emphasis.  One has been in developing a series of content analysis schemes
for coding the nature of questions people ask.  The other has been for
developing the set of auxiliary measur es focusing on respondent gaps. 
Both of these groups of measures are listed in OVERVIEW #2, Appendix B. 

For the emphasis on identifying the nature of respondent questions, a 
series of highly tested and reliable content analysis templates have 
been developed.  Used in most of the studies have been:
*  5W FOCUS:  coding the question in terms of whether it focuses on a 
who, what, when, where, why, or how gap.
*  TIME FOCUS:  coding the question in terms of whether it focuses on 
the past, present, or future.
*  VALENCE FOCUS:  coding the question in terms of whether it focuses on 
good roads, bad roads, or neutral roads.
*  ENTITY FOCUS:  coding the question in terms of whether it focuses on 
self, other, process, objects, situations, means of getting from the 
past to present, present situations, means of moving from present to 
future, or future situations.

In addition, data in most of the applied studies have been used to develop
a dexcriptive focus scheme for questions detailing the specific content
areas for which respondents see gaps in that particular research context. 
Recent work has also used the now
 eight years of findings to develop a close-ended list of questions for
close-ended studies. 

Attempts have been made to develop the measures of the nature of gaps to
adhere consistently to the general theoretic perspective .  Thus, it was
reasoned in developing the theoretic content analysis scheme, that human
beings mandated to make sense in an ever-changing time-space will have
specific kinds of generic questions because of that mandate.  The
theoretic templates are the attempt to tap these generic questions,
measurable for specific situations but theoretically applicable across

The additional gap-related measures all attempt to detail the nature of 
information seeking processes and success for different kinds of questions.  Specific measures included to date have been:
*  Ease of Answering
*  Reasons for Ease of Answering Difficulty
*  Question Connectedness
*  Nature of Question Connectedness
*  Who would Ask
*  Importance aof Answering
*  Reasons for Importance of Answering
*  Asking Out Loud or Silently
*  Reasons for Not asking out Loud
*  Answering Success
*  Reasons for Lack of Answering Success
*  Answer Completeness
*  Reasons for Completness?Partialness
*  Answer Sources
*  Gap-Bridging Strategies

The entire set of measures has rarely all been used in a given study.  As
a set, however, they allow the researcher to look at such questions as: 
What kinds of questions are least likely to be seen as answered?  What
barriers do people see to getting ans wers?  What are the bases people use
for judging answers as good in different situations? 

USES.  The final class of variables has, to date, actually consisted of
only two measures--the nature of hurts and the nature of helps.  Both
hurts and helps are defined by Sense-Making as the uses made of
information.  Until recently, all helps/hurts wer e measured using content
analysis based on a theoretically-guided scheme.  This scheme is described
in OVERVIEW #3 in Appendix. Basically, it codes a help (or hurt) in terms
of how it facilitates (or blocks) a persons picture-making (seen as
required for movement), movement, and gaining of desired ends. 

The scheme is used in different forms in different studies.  The most 
detailed recent list of major categories of helps/hurts includes the following (stated here as helps):
*  Got Pictures, Ideas, Understandings
*  Able to Plan
*  Got Skills
*  Got Started, Got Motivated
*  Kept Going
*  Got Control
*  Things Got Calmer, Easier
*  Got Out of a Bad Situation
*  Reached a Goal, Accomplished Things
*  Went on to Other Things
*  Avoided a Bad Situation
*  Took Mind Off Things
*  Relaxed, Rested
*  Got Pleasure
*  Got Support, Reassurance, Confirmation
*  Got Connected to Others

In very recent work, a close-ended list of helps/hurst has been used as
rating scales asking respondents to judge the extent to which they
expected each help/hurt and the extent to which they actually experienced
each help/hurt. 

Work to date 
The published articles, chapters, and available institutional
reports produced using the Sense-Making approach have now begun to form a
substantial body of work.  They fall into two classes.  One includes
theoretic and critical essays addressing issues raised in the first
sections of this paper.  These works detail the assumptions of
Sense-Making, the roots from which it came, and the reasons why it
developed as it did.  Because these pieces all build on each other, they
do not need to be described indivi dually except in the briefest way. 
This list includes all of the non-redundant pieces: 

*  Dervin l976a article in JOURNAL OF BROADCASTING detailing the nature of
the assumptions made about information in communications research and the
consequences of the assumptions to research conduct. 

*  Zweizig and Dervin l977 chapter in ADVANCES IN LIBRARIANSHIP applying
Sense-Making concepts (particularly the idea of uses) to the context of
library use. 

*  Dervin l977b chapter in DREXEL LIBRARY QUARTERLY reviewing the
prevalent assumptions about information and its use that guide research
and offering alternative assumptions. 

*  Dervin l980 chapter in PROGRESS IN COMMUNICATION SCIENCE in which the
review of prevalent and alternative assumptions is done specifically in
the context of society "have-nots" and the issue of communication gaps and
inequities.  Specific references ar e made to development issues, as well. 

*  Dervin l98l chapter on changing conceptions of the audience in the Rice

The second class of published and available work involves the empirical
studies.  These include: 

*  Dervi, Zweizig, Banister, Gabriel, Hall, and Kwan l976.  This is the
institutional report, available in ERIC, of the large-scale study of the
sense-making in recent troublesome situations of 265 general population,
l00 Asian, and l00 Black respondents drawn in a multi-state geographic
probability sample from within the Seattle city limits.  This study
involved the first use of the Sense-Making approach, including use of the
Time-Line Interview, tapping of nature of questions and helps, tapping of
prece ived barriers to gap-bridging.  The study was seen as descriptive in
intent and yielded a large number of findings useful in designing further
work.  The major findings were seen as supporting the Sense-Making
premises.  Among the highlights of the findin gs were: 

a) Respondents saw information as a means rather than an end.  They didn't
describe their troublesome situations as information gaps, they didn't
focus on information acquisition as an end in itself.  Rather, information
seeking and use was seen as a mea ns for moving. 

b) Respondents saw information as that which informs. Answers came
internally as well as externally.  So-called "subjective" questions were
as prevalent as so-called objective ones.  Information was needed for
situations without resolutions as well as for situations with resolutions. 
Most questions related to self or others rather than merely "fact-finding"
independent of people.  Question asking continued even after
 situation resolution. 

c) Respondents informed themselves when and where they could.  Tactics for
bridging the same gap changed over time.  Respondents used a wide variety
of gap-bridging tactics, with the expected high emphasis on informal
networks and low emphasis on formal networks.  This latter finding was
interpreted not as proof that people won't use formal systems but rather
as indication that formal systems as they are now designed do not
intersect well with gap-bridging needs. 

d) Respondents informed themselves in the context of time-space bound
situations.  A variety of situational measures emerged as predictive of
information seeking and use. 

e) Respondents assessed information usefulness in a variety of ways,
including not only the traditional posited making decisions and making
progress but less frequently seen uses such as getting support, gaining
self-control, and so on. 

*  Palmour, Rathbun, Brown, Dervin, and Dowd l979.  This is the
institutional report, also available in ERIC, of the large scale study of
Californian information needs with 646 respondents sampled using
multi-state random precedures from the entire state' s population of
adults l4 years of age or older.  The study involved the second
large-scale use of the Sense-Making approach and as witha the first
yielded a large number of descriptive findings useful in designing further
work.  The study formed the basi s for a series of training workshops for
librarians in the State of California and, in some libraries, is actively
being usef for system redesign.  The study's intent as presented in this
report was primarily descriptive and yielded findings much like tho se

*  Dervin, Harlock, Atwood, and Garzona l980.  This is the first empirical
study published in a refereed publication.  This study involved
Micro-Moment time-Line Interviews with 24 patients on their last visit to
their doctor.  Patients were sampled using
 random procedures from the patient rosters of four Seattle doctors.  The
patients contributed a total of 494 questions, the units of analysis in
this study.  The study incorporated an early version of Situation Movement
State as a predictor and early ver sions of Nature of Questions Asked and
Nature of Helps Obtained as criterions.  The study hypothesized and found
significant relationships between the Situation Movement State measure and
the two criterions.  Each Situation Movement State was shown to hav e its
own complexion of emphasis on questions and uses.  Highlights of the
findings included: 

*  In general, when in Decision Movement States, respondents reported
asking more questions about choices.  In contrast, when in Worry States,
respondents asked more questions about the states of their bodies, the
nature of treatments, and the reasons for
 states of their bodies.  Barrier States, on the other hand, yielded more
questions about the reasons for treatment and impacts on life. 

*  In general, when in Decision Movement States, respondents reported
getting more helps from information by identifying options, finding
directions, planning, and arriving.  In Worry States they reported more
use of getting away from bad feelings and see ing the road ahead helps. 
Barrier States also showed more use of this last use while Observing
States reported more use of avoiding bad roads ahead. 

*  Atwood and Dervin l982.  This study utilized the California information
needs study data (see Palmour et al. above) to pit race against Situation
Movement State as a predictor of the nature of respondent questions
(measured with the 5W Focus Template) and sources used to get answers. 
From the respondents in the California study, 205 were selected for the
study.  Asians were excluded because their numbers were too small.  Whites
were sub-sampled to reduce their numbers to levels more closely aligned wi
th other groups.  The resulting sub-samples include respondents with a
most important question:  67 Whites, 74 Blacks, 64 Hispanics.  It was
hypothesized and found that:  l) Situation Movement State significantly
predicted nature of questions; and 2) Sit uation Movement State and Race
in interaction significantly predicted sources used.  Reasoning behind the
hypotheses was that race as a predictor is a measure that taps the
structural or system constraints within a society and, thus, should play
more of a
 role in predicting behaviors that are constrained by society (i.e. source
use) than in predicting behaviors that are more in the individual's
control (i.e. gap-defining, question-asking). 

*  Dervin, Nilan, and Jacobson l982.  This study used Micro-Moment
Time-Line interviews with 80 blood donors as its data base.  The blood
donors were selected using random procedures from eight strata (based on
age, sex, and new versus repeat donor status ) of donors listed on the
Puget Sound Blood Center rosters.  The 80 respondents yielded 480
questions, the units of analysis.  This study focused on the predictor
power of predictors defined in terms of different time definitions.  The
question was what kinds of measures would predict information uses (i.e.
helps) best:  a group of seven Demographic measures (defined as tapping
across time-space); six a prior: situational measures (defined as ta pping
time space at the point of entry into the communication situation): and
time-space bound situational measures including six measures of
situational perceptions and six measures of the nature of gaps seen (i.e.
questions).  It was hypothesized and fo und that the time-space bound
measures accounted for more variance in information uses than either
across time-space or a prior time-space measures.  Results showed that
time-space bound measures accounted for l7.4% of variance in information
uses on the average compared to l.7 % and l.6% respectively for across
time-space and a prior:  Time-space measures.  It was also hypothesized
that of the two classes of time-space bound measures, gaps measures would
be stronger predictors than other situational cha racteristic measures
because gap measures speak more directly to the essence of sense-making. 
Results supported the hypothesis.  Gap measures accounted for l5.3% on the
average compared to only 2.l% for other situational measures.  The study,
thus, provi ded evidence of the ways in which different uses are used to
assess the effectiveness of gap-bridging for different kinds of questions. 
Typical of these specific findings were: 

a) When respondents reported using "got pictures" as their means for
assessing the use of answers to questions, they were significantly more
likely to have done so if they had asked a "where am I now" question and
questions about the state of their own b odies or the nature of blood

b) When respondents reported using "got started/going" as their use for
answers, they were significantly more likely to have done so if they asked
"where will I be questions" and answers focusing on their own self-control
and bodies. 

c) When respondents reported using "avoided a bad situation" as their use,
they were significantly more likely to have done so if they asked
questions before donating, questions about paid, and questions about the
donating process. 

*  Atwood, Allen, Bardgett, Proudlove, and Rich l982.  This study used
Micro-Moment Time-Line Interviews with children aged 5-l2 reporting on
recent television viewing.  In all, 55 children were interviewed (all
children at two sites of a day care porgram
 for whom parental permission was obtained) yielding l28 questions asked. 
The questions were the units of analysis for this study.  Children were
asked to describe the steps in their recent exposures to TV.  The study
compared the predictive power of typ e of program watched to Situation
Movement States as content analyzed based on children reports of the
Time-Line steps in their viewing.  Criterion measures included:  Nature of
question asked at each Time-Line step (5W Focus); whether question was
asked out loud or silently; when question was answered; source of answer;
and helps obtained from answer.  Results suggested that Situation Movement
State was a stronger predictor of the nature of questions asked and helps
while program type was a stronger predictor of sources used. 

*  Dervin, Jacobson, and Nilan l982.  Using the same data base as
described for the Dervin, Nilan, and Jacobson article above, this study
set out to validate the relativistic, qualitative approach to looking at
information-seeking by using relativistic and qualitative differences in
information seeking as predictors of a criterion set of measures of
information seeking emphasis, and success.  Predictor measures included: 
time, 5W, valence, entity, movement, and descriptive focus of question. 
Criterion measures included frequency of asking, proportionate emphasis,
ease of gap-bridging, and completeness of gap-bridging.  Of 24 statis
tical tests completed, 20 were significant indicating that the different
kinds of questions differed significantly from each other in terms of the
frequency with which they were asked, the emphasis placed on them, the
degree of ease seen in answering (i.e . gap-bridging), and the
completeness of gap-bridging.  Some noteable findings included: 

*  Frequently asked questions focused more on the future. 

*  Most emphasized questions were those that involved self. 

*  Hardest questions to answer were seen as those involving the future of
those that focused on understanding the connections between different
time-space points and evaluating events. 

*  Questions least completely answered were why questions. 

*  Questions most completely answered were those involving exclusively
personal assessments. 

*Dervin, Nilan, Krenz, and Wittet l982.  This study of cancer patients
used random sampling procedures to secure 82 respondents (3l chemotherapy
and 5l radiation therapy) from the patient rosters at the University of
Washington hospital.  The 82 responden ts contributed 525 questions, the
units of analysis for this study.  One section of the study compared the
predictive power of treatment (chemotherapy versus radiation therapy) with
a situational measure of state in the disease/treatment process as predic
tors of the nature of questions asked (time, 5W, valence, entity, and
descriptive focus).  Of 29 dummy measures tapping nature of questions
asked, treatment significantly predicted none while statge in the
disease/treatment process predicted l9.  Results showed that each stage
had its own sense-making profile.  A second section of findings focused on
the importance, method of getting answers, success, andexpected
helpfulness-hurtfulness of different kinds of questions.  Results showed
significant differen ces between question types.  Highlights of specific
findings included: 

*  One noteable finding showed an ebb and flow in sense-making such that
attention turned to underlying issues (philosophical questions,
understandings whys) only when situational conditions permitted this kind
of attention). 

*  Why questions were seen at least important in this study, the most
difficult to get answers to, and the least likely to be reported as

*  Good road questions were seen as more important than either neutral or
bad road questions. 

*  Questions without any involvement of self or others (i.e. questions
about processes and objects seen as unconnected to one's own situations)
were judged as least likely to have helpful answers. 

Across the studies to date, there have been some consistencies in analytic
approaches which deserve mention. 

Sense-Making posits that sense-making behaviors are responsive to
situational conditions and should not be predicted based on across
time-space measures.  This premise has been supported with the consistent
results showing situation as a mor e powerful predictor of information
seeking and use as defined by Sense-Making.  Sense-Making has also relied
heavily on other work which has supported the notion that respondent
consistencies do not account for significant variance in information
seeking .  While some Sense-Making studies have used the person as the
unit of analysis (i.e. Atwood and Dervin l982), this has resulted from the
fact that each person had only one question as mandated by the study
design.  In all other studies, the question aske d or the sense-making
instance has been the unit of analysis in order to allow respondents to
create their own context and be different in different contexts.  The
open-ended procedures used for most Sense-Making work to date have also
prevented any expli cit statistical comparison of the power of respondent
differences in accounting for variance versus situational differences. 
This test is now being performed for a study using the Close-Ended
Sense-Making Interview (Nilan l983, Nilan and Dervin l983).  T his
approach allows the reseracher to obtain situational data from the same
respondent for a veriety of prescribed situational conditions and thus
permits an explicit test of situation versus respondent. 

hypotheses, Sense-Making studies have universally placed heavy emphasis on
describing the results of data collection in inductive ways in order to
enrich and provide direction for future work. 

TECHNIQUES. Appropriately, to date, most of the effort in Sense-Making has
been focused on developing and refining data collecting, measuring, and
coding approaches.  The Micro-Moment Time-Line, for example, has gone
through a number of transformations until its rece nt stabilization.  The
dimensions of situations, gaps, and uses tapped with explicit questions
and either close-ended measurement or content analysis have also gone
through transformations. 

is the conclusion that statistical clarity is necessary to support and
enrich conceptual clarity and that frequently unuseful conceptualizations
are hidden in overly elaborate statis tical presentations. 

Looking at the studies in terms of their contributions to date, these can
be summarized in five ways.  Each of these will be described briefly below
and illustrated with one or two examples. 

date, have provided support for the core Sense -Making premises.  They,
for example, show consistently that people assess the effectiveness of the
answers they get to questions (i.e. information) in personal terms rather
than in terms
 of objective information processing. 

THEY CONTRADICT SOME OLD MYTHS. One prevalent myth, well documented in the
past literature, is that the amount of information seeking and use of
citizens, even highly educated ones, is low.  The Sense-Making studies, on
the other hand, show so-much Sense-Making activity that the researc h
approaches are sometimes hard-put to deal with it all. 

hardest conclusions to reach are sometimes the simplist in retrospect. 
This is an assessment that can be easily made about many Sense-Making
findings.  It might be said, for example, that:  "Of course, people ask
different quest ions at different points as they proceed through a
situation;" or "Of course, why questions are harder to answer."  It must
be remembered, however, that while the findings often pass the test of
common sense, they remain findings that prior research appro aches have
not been able to engender. 

the ways in which Sense-Making studies have supported their own theoretic
premises, they have also confirmed the expectations of those premises for
the usefulness in sense-making of current communication systems.  One
example is the heavy empha sis in the Sense-Making studies on "why"
questions and the empirically proven lack of emphasis on such questions in
current information systems.  Another example is the consistent use by
respondents of positive uses for answers -- feeling good about self,
 getting hope, being able to continue, feeling happy.  This contrasts with
evidence showing that consistently our communication systems emphasize the
disastrous, sad, and negative.  Another is the findings showing that topic
focus and assumed use do not p redict question asking or answer using. 
This contradicts the almost exclusive use in our communication systems of
topic (e.g. national news, local news) or assumed use (e.g. entertainment,
information) for organizing information. 

THEY PROVIDE DIRECTION FOR PRACTICE. Both the theoretic and descriptive
findings provide specific directions for communication practice.  They,
for example, pinpoint for practitioners what kinds of questions
respondents need answers to and what kinds of uses they want to put these
naswers to .  They also pinpoint for the practitioner the time-space
points at which the respondents are most likely to be asking specific
kinds of questions.  They also show where the current system is not
meeting sense-making needs. 

Practice inventions Both the theoretic premises of the Sense-Making
studies and the findings have been used as the basis for three practice
inventions currently being used in actual communication systems.  Testing
the helpfulness of these inventions is on the Sense-Making r esearch


Neutral-Questionning is an interpersonal communicating tactic derived from
these Sense-Making premises:  that sense-making is situational; and that
focusing on the assumed to be universals of movement through time-space
and the mandate to bridge gaps allo ws one person to assess dimensions of
the perspective of another universally applicable to sense-making. 
Neutral-Questionning directs the communicator to ask others three classes
of questions which are content free except in their allegiance to
time-spac e premises.  Examples of these questions are: 

To tap situations :  What happened?  What led you to this place?  What
blocks or hinders you? 

To tap gaps:  What questions do you have?  What confuses you?  What do you
need to make sense of?  What holes exist in your understanding? 

To tap uses:  What help would you like?  What would you like to see
happen?  What's your aim? 

Practice in the use of Neutral-Questionning has been systematically given
to a variety of professionals:  pri marily librarians, and doctors.  No
explicit test has been conducted yet but informal reports suggest that
after the initial shock of the change, professionals find the tactic
allows them to communicate more effectively and efficiently at the same
time.  As one reference librarian put it:  "I've been able to find out in
two minutes with Neutral-Questionning what it would have taken l5 minutes
or more to determine using the traditional approach to the reference
interview."  This statement, which needs expl icit study, of course,
contradicts one of the most-often stated assumptions in the field of
communications -- that effective communication alweays takes more time. 

This practice invention also is derived from Sense-Making
theoretic premises and its finding which suggest that in order to make
effective sense people:  need to receive information that is transmitted
subjectively (i.e. anchored in the situations-gapa-us es of the sources);
and need to get a picture of the different senses different poeple have
made in a variety of situations to so they can locate themselves (i.e.
allows them to circle reality and locate themselves within it).  These
premises lead to the conclusion that in media products more than one
source should be used, sources should be macimally different and not
defined simply as experts, and that information from sources should be
rooted in their time-space.  Infosheets have been designed for a do ctor's
office, a school system, and a medical clinic and are being developed for
a variety of library settings.  All Infosheet development starts with some
kind of Time-Line interviews with intended audience members.  After
audience questions are determin ed, an Infosheet is constructed to address
one or more questions.  Sources who give answers to the question are
solicited from a wide spectrum of individuals involved in, effected by, or
knowledgeable about the situational context.  Sources are asked how they
would answer the question, what led them to construct that answer, and how
the answer helps them.  Contradictions in source's answers are referred
back to sources so they can explain their views of what led to the
contradictions existing.  An an exam ple, one Infosheet developed for
parents of exceptional children in a school system focused on the most
asked question of parents:  "what makes a child exceptional?"  Answers
were obtained using the guidelines above from "experts," from parents,
from both
 so-called exceptional and not exceptional children.  While no explicit test has been done to date, users of Infosheets have universally reported them interesting and useful.


As a result of the consistent emphasis in the findings on good and hopeful
uses of answers to questions, the GOOD NEWS NEWSPAPER was designed.  The
only example to date focused on the University fo Washington community. 
Communication students interviewe d other students, faculty, and staff
asking them:  What's one thing you really like about being a member of the
UW community?  What's the thing you've accomplished recently at UW that
you are most proud of?  What's an instance when someone at UW really
helped you in a time of need?  Representative selections of these
responses are being compiled in a UW GOOD NEWS NEWSPAPER.  Again, no test
has been made.  However, the would-be journalists who did the interviewing
and constructing of the paper and the st udents readers exposed to it so
far have been enthusiastic. 

Research agenda

While Sense-Making studies and essays first emerged in l975-l976, now
eight years later, there is still the feeling of being at a beginning,
even if the beginning is now infinitely more complex.  Each Sense-Making
study has raised more questions than it h as answered.  Each step points
to more need for development, more potential applications, more tests.  A
detailed research agenda will be published in the upcoming book (Dervin
l984).  For purposes of this paper, the research agenda can be summarized
as i nvolving seven thrusts of activity: 

1) Systematic tests of the testable Sense-Making premises. 

2) A series of explicit tests of respondent versus situation as predcitors
of sense-making. 

3) The development and use of more traditionally qualitative methods of
analysis in order to tap the richness of the Micro-Moment Time Line

4) The continued development and refinement of content analysis schemes to
tap nature of situations, questions, and uses as well as barriers to
sense-making, bases for judging answers as completeor incomplete, and
gap-bridging strategies. 

5) The continued development and refinement of training approaches which
allow respondents to classify their own responses in the context of
researcher templates. 

6) The continued development and refinement of the Close-Ended
Sense-Making Interview, particularly with application to micro-moments. 

7) The evaluation of the usefulness of practice inventions in actual
communication systems.