Information Seeking and Use in Group Knowledge Work

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)
Standard Research Grant (2005 - 2008)

Dr. Chun Wei Choo, University of Toronto (PI) []


Project Introduction

Work in organizations is becoming increasingly focused on collaborative activity in groups. Groups bring together disparate sets of expertise and experience, and group work is the locus of knowledge creation and use that generates innovation and learning. IT has a growing role in enabling group work, and Web-based systems are an increasingly important platform for supporting cooperative knowledge work. A major assumption is that these tools will increase information gathering and use by the group, and that this will in turn improve group performance. The proposed study focuses on the influence of task structure (its complexity and uncertainty), and group culture (norms about gathering and processing information) on the group's use of its Web workspace (e.g. intranet, portal, team-room) to seek, share, and use information, and the consequent impact on the performance of the group.

The major research questions are:

  • How does the structure of the task and its fit with the functionality of the Web?
  • How does the information culture of the group and its fit with the functionality of the Web workspace influence information seeking, sharing and use in the group?
  • What is the relationship between group information seeking, sharing and use, and group performance outcomes?

The study of information needs and uses has a long history. A recent, comprehensive survey noted that the majority of these studies are structured according to occupation groups (e.g. scientists and engineers), social roles (citizens, students), and demographic segments. Surprisingly, few studies analyze the information seeking behaviors of groups that work together on a common project or set of tasks. While there is a significant literature on group support systems, much of it focuses on communications within groups, computer support for collaborative work, and systems design. There are very few studies that examine group information behaviors through the lens of information needs, seeking, and use. The proposed study fills this gap, and makes a contribution by explicating the effect of group culture and task structure on group information seeking and group performance effectiveness.

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