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Title:Sense-making in theory and practice: a metatheoretical foundation and application for health information seeking
Author(s):Gross, Margaret K.
Advisor(s):MacMullen, W. John
Department / Program:Library & Information Science
Discipline:Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Information seeking
library and information science
Abstract:This thesis attempts to provide deeper historical and theoretical grounding for sense-making, thereby illustrating its applicability to practical information seeking research. In Chapter One I trace the philosophical origins of Brenda Dervin’s theory known as “sense making,” reaching beyond current scholarship that locates the origins of sense-making in twentieth-century Phenomenology and Communication theory and find its rich ontological, epistemological, and etymological heritage that dates back to the Pre-Socratics. After exploring sense-making’s Greek roots, I examine sense-making’s philosophical undercurrents found in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), where he also returns to the simplicity of the Greeks for his concept of sense. With Chapter Two I explore sense-making methodology and find, in light of the Greek and Hegelian dialectic, a dialogical bridge connecting sense-making’s theory with pragmatic uses. This bridge between Dervin’s situation and use occupies a distinct position in sense-making theory. Moreover, building upon Brenda Dervin’s model of sense-making, I use her metaphors of gap and bridge analogy to discuss the dialectic and dialogic components of sense making. The purpose of Chapter Three is pragmatic – to gain insight into the online information-seeking needs, experiences, and motivation of first-degree relatives (FDRs) of breast cancer survivors through the lens of sense-making. This research analyses four questions: 1) information-seeking behavior among FDRs of cancer survivors compared to survivors and to undiagnosed, non-related online cancer information seekers in the general population, 2) types of and places where information is sought, 3) barriers or gaps and satisfaction rates FDRs face in their cancer information quest, and 4) types and degrees of cancer information and resources FDRs want and use in their information search for themselves and other family members. An online survey instrument designed to investigate these questions was developed and pilot tested. Via an email communication, the Susan Love Breast Cancer Research Foundation distributed 322,000 invitations to its membership to complete the survey, and from March 24th to April 5th 10,692 women agreed to take the survey with 8,804 volunteers actually completing survey responses. Of the 8,804 surveys, 95% of FDRs have searched for cancer information online, and 84% of FDRs use the Internet as a sense-making tool for additional information they have received from doctors or nurses. FDRs report needing much more information than either survivors or family/friends in ten out of fifteen categories related to breast and ovarian cancer. When searching for cancer information online, FDRs also rank highest in several of sense-making’s emotional levels: uncertainty, confusion, frustration, doubt, and disappointment than do either survivors or friends and family. The sense-making process has existed in theory and praxis since the early Greeks. In applying sense–making’s theory to a contemporary problem, the survey reveals unaddressed situations and gaps of FDRs’ information search process. FDRs are a highly motivated group of online information seekers whose needs are largely unaddressed as a result of gaps in available online information targeted to address their specific needs. Since FDRs represent a quarter of the population, further research addressing their specific online information needs and experiences is necessary.
Issue Date:2010-05-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Margaret K. Gross
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-05-19
Date Deposited:May 2010

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