Uncertainty Dimensions of Information Behaviour in a Group Based Problem Solving Context

Jette Hyldegård


This paper presents a study of uncertainty dimensions of information behaviour in a group based problem solving context. After a presentation of the cognitive uncertainty dimension underlying Kuhlthau’s ISP-model, uncertainty factors associated with personality, the work task situation and social settings are introduced. These different dimensions of uncertainty are explored in a longitudinal case study of three groups of LIS students (two groups with tree females and one group with three females and one male) while they were preparing a project assignment. It is explored to what extent group members’ experiences of uncertainty differ from the individual information seeker in Kuhlthau’s ISP-model, and how this experience may be related to personal, work task and social factors. A number of methods have been employed to collect data on each group member during the assignment process: a demographic survey, a personality test, 3 process surveys, 3 diaries and 3 interviews. It was found that group members’ experiences of uncertainty did not correspond with the ISP-model in that other factors beyond the mere information searching process seemed to intermingle with the complex process of knowledge construction and meaning making. Personal factors and work task factors also caused manifestations of uncertainty, though under strong influence from social factors like familiarity with other group members and the group work process. It is concluded that the uncertainty concept is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, which should not be studied out of context. On the other hand, this complexity of the uncertainty concept also represents a methodological and practical challenge to the researcher as well as the practioner.


Uncertainty; group work; information behaviour; triangulation;

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.15845/noril.v1i1.23

Copyright (c) 2009 Jette Hyldegård

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

University of Bergen Library

ISSN: 1890-5900