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Lu, Chi-Jung (2012) ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY OF INFORMATION ON THE USER-DEFINED SOCIAL WEB: A MIXED-METHOD STUDY. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Frequently interacting with other people or working in an information-rich environment can foster the accidental discovery of information (ADI) (Erdelez, 2000; McCay-Peet & Toms, 2010). With the increasing adoption of social web technologies, online user-participation communities and user-generated content have provided users the potential for ADI. However, ADI on t he Social Web has been under-examined in the literature of library and information science. This gap needs to be addressed in order to get a more complete picture of human information behavior.

The objectives of this dissertation were to develop the propositions that describe and explain ADI behaviors among individual users of web-based social tools. Two research questions were addressed: 1) What are the characteristics of ADI on the Social Web? 2) What are the users’ perceptions about ADI on the Social Web?

This dissertation used a sequential mixed-method research design involving three data collection methods: a survey, and follow-up logs, and interviews. The sample includes 45 participants in an academic environment. Among the survey participants, a purposeful sample of 13 individuals completed follow-up incident logs and in-depth interviews. Qualitative analysis with Stata 12/MP (StataCorp, 2011) and qualitative analysis with ATLAS.ti v.6 ( were performed on the data. The results presented include descriptive statistics and thematic findings.

The important findings include: 1) ADI on the Social Web has many unique characteristics that can be identified within the six elements of user, motivation, context, information behavior, information, and information need; 2) participating users considered the Social Web as a useful environment for ADI, and they even used some self-developed strategies to facilitate ADI; 3) prior experience and anticipation of ADI can be the motivations to use particular social tools; 4) social tools can serve as information grounds where users gather together and form relations, precipitating conditions which foster ADI; 5) users considered ADI on the Social Web as supplementary to their overall information acquisition; the unexpected information that they found was most beneficial for addressing long-term information needs. The findings of this study expand on existing information behavior theories and offer practical insights for the design of information services and library instruction.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee MemberButler, Brian
Committee MemberCurrier, James D.kcurrier@sis.pitt.eduJDC25
Committee MemberHe, Daqingdah44@pitt.eduDAH44
Thesis AdvisorDetlefsen, Ellen G.ellen@sis.pitt.eduELLEN
Date: 21 May 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 December 2011
Approval Date: 21 May 2012
Submission Date: 20 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 191
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Information Sciences > Library and Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: serendipity, information encountering, incidental information acquisition, serendipitous information acquisition
Date Deposited: 21 May 2012 12:31
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


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