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The critical incident technique as a tool for gathering data as part of a qualitative study of information seeking behaviour.

Marcella, Rita; Rowlands, Hayley; Baxter, Graeme

Authors

Rita Marcella

Hayley Rowlands



Contributors

Isabel Ramos
Editor

Anabela Mesquita
Editor

Abstract

Since devised by Flanagan in 1954 as a tool to explore what people do to achieve an organisational aim, the critical incident technique (CIT) has been used in various disciplines as a method of understanding human behaviour. This paper provides an overview of the use of CIT in the specific field of information behaviour, both in large-scale quantitative studies designed to assess the quality and impact of library and information systems and services, and in more qualitative research examining the information needs and use of particular professions or occupational groups, or of particular societal or community groups. It highlights the inconsistent application of CIT in academic research, and the quantitative versus qualitative tension that exists in discussions of the use of CIT as a data collection tool. The paper also discusses the use of CIT by the authors in a study of the information seeking behaviour of oil and gas professionals in a health and safety context, considering that project in relation to Flanagans five main steps in the CIT process, and in terms of the benefits and limitations of the technique identified by Flanagan and by other commentators. The authors believe that CIT has particular advantages in the study of information behaviour as a method of illuminating the ways in which the context of information need impacts on information behaviour, how participants feel, and in particular in identifying positive and negative behaviours in information seeking and use. The authors also argue that CIT must be used in a thoughtful manner and in a full recognition of its weaknesses in the design of future research.

Citation

MARCELLA, R., ROWLANDS, H. and BAXTER, G. 2013. The critical incident technique as a tool for gathering data as part of a qualitative study of information seeking behaviour. In Ramos, I. and Mesquita, A. (eds.) Proceedings of the 12th European conference on research methodology for business and management studies (ECRM 2013), 4-5 July 2013, Guimaraes, Portugal. Sonning Common: Academic Conferences and Publishing International, pages 247-253.

Conference Name 12th European conference on research methodology for business and management studies (ECRM 2013)
Start Date Jul 4, 2013
End Date Jul 5, 2013
Acceptance Date Jul 31, 2013
Online Publication Date Jul 31, 2013
Publication Date Dec 31, 2013
Deposit Date Sep 8, 2015
Publicly Available Date Sep 8, 2015
Print ISSN 2049-0968
Publisher Academic Conferences and Publishing International
Pages 247-253
ISBN 9781909507303
Keywords Critical incident technique; Information behaviour; Qualitative techniques
Public URL http://hdl.handle.net/10059/1286

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